Psalm 26 - 31
I Will Bless the LORD
Psalm 26 Of David.
Psalm 26:1 Vindicate me, O LORD,
for I have walked in my integrity,
and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.
2 Prove me, O LORD, and try me;
test my heart and my mind.
3 For your steadfast love is before my eyes,
and I walk in your faithfulness.
4 I do not sit with men of falsehood,
nor do I consort with hypocrites.
5 I hate the assembly of evildoers,
and I will not sit with the wicked.
6 I wash my hands in innocence
and go around your altar, O LORD,
7 proclaiming thanksgiving aloud,
and telling all your wondrous deeds.
8 O LORD, I love the habitation of your house
and the place where your glory dwells.
9 Do not sweep my soul away with sinners,
nor my life with bloodthirsty men,
10 in whose hands are evil devices,
and whose right hands are full of bribes.
11 But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity;
redeem me, and be gracious to me.
12 My foot stands on level ground;
in the great assembly I will bless the LORD.
The LORD Is My Light and My Salvation
Psalm 27 Of David.
Psalm 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.
3 Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.
4 One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple.
5 For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.
6 And now my head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the LORD.
7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
8 You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, LORD, do I seek.”
9 Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
O God of my salvation!
10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
but the LORD will take me in.
11 Teach me your way, O LORD,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.
13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!
The LORD Is My Strength and My Shield
Psalm 28 Of David.
Psalm 28:1 To you, O LORD, I call;
my rock, be not deaf to me,
lest, if you be silent to me,
I become like those who go down to the pit.
2 Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy,
when I cry to you for help,
when I lift up my hands
toward your most holy sanctuary.
3 Do not drag me off with the wicked,
with the workers of evil,
who speak peace with their neighbors
while evil is in their hearts.
4 Give to them according to their work
and according to the evil of their deeds;
give to them according to the work of their hands;
render them their due reward.
5 Because they do not regard the works of the LORD
or the work of his hands,
he will tear them down and build them up no more.
6 Blessed be the LORD!
For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.
7 The LORD is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to him.
8 The LORD is the strength of his people;
he is the saving refuge of his anointed.
9 Oh, save your people and bless your heritage!
Be their shepherd and carry them forever.
Ascribe to the LORD Glory
Psalm 29 A PSALM OF DAVID.
Psalm 29:1 Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.
3 The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD, over many waters.
4 The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire.
8 The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;
the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth
and strips the forests bare,
and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
10 The LORD sits enthroned over the flood;
the LORD sits enthroned as king forever.
11 May the LORD give strength to his people!
May the LORD bless his people with peace!
Joy Comes with the Morning
Psalm 30 A Psalm of David. A song at the dedication of the temple.
Psalm 30:1 I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up
and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
2 O LORD my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
3 O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.
4 Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
5 For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
6 As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
7 By your favor, O LORD,
you made my mountain stand strong;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.
8 To you, O LORD, I cry,
and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
9 “What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me!
O LORD, be my helper!”
11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
Into Your Hand I Commit My Spirit
Psalm 31 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
Psalm 31:1 In you, O LORD, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me!
2 Incline your ear to me;
rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me!
3 For you are my rock and my fortress;
and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;
4 you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.
6 I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols,
but I trust in the LORD.
7 I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
because you have seen my affliction;
you have known the distress of my soul,
8 and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
you have set my feet in a broad place.
9 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
my eye is wasted from grief;
my soul and my body also.
10 For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,
and my bones waste away.
11 Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach,
especially to my neighbors,
and an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.
12 I have been forgotten like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel.
13 For I hear the whispering of many—
terror on every side!—
as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.
14 But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hand;
rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
16 Make your face shine on your servant;
save me in your steadfast love!
17 O LORD, let me not be put to shame,
for I call upon you;
let the wicked be put to shame;
let them go silently to Sheol.
18 Let the lying lips be mute,
which speak insolently against the righteous
in pride and contempt.
19 Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you
and worked for those who take refuge in you,
in the sight of the children of mankind!
20 In the cover of your presence you hide them
from the plots of men;
you store them in your shelter
from the strife of tongues.
21 Blessed be the LORD,
for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me
when I was in a besieged city.
22 I had said in my alarm,
“I am cut off from your sight.”
But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy
when I cried to you for help.
23 Love the LORD, all you his saints!
The LORD preserves the faithful
but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the LORD!
What I'm Reading
Psalm 26 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)TITLE. A Psalm of David. The sweet singer of Israel appears before us in this Psalm as one enduring reproach; in this he was the type of the great Son of David, and is an encouraging example to us to carry the burden of slander to the throne of grace. It is an ingenious surmise that this appeal to heaven was written by David at the time of the assassination of Ishbosheth, by Baanah and Rechab, to protest his innocence of all participation in that treacherous murder; the tenor of the Psalm certainly agrees with the supposed occasion, but it is not possible with such a slender clue to go beyond conjecture.
DIVISION. Unity of subject is so distinctly maintained, that there are no sharp divisions. David Dickson has given an admirable summary in these words:—"He appeals to God", the supreme Judge, in the testimony of a good conscience, bearing him witness; first, of his endeavour to walk uprightly as a believer, Ps 26:1-3; secondly, of his keeping himself from the contagion of the evil counsel, sinful causes, and examples of the wicked, Ps 26:4-5; thirdly, of his purpose still to behave himself holily and righteously, out of love to be partaker of the public privileges of the Lord's people in the congregation, Ps 26:6-8 Whereupon he prayeth to be free of the judgment coming upon the wicked, Ps 26:9-10 according as he had purposed to eschew their sins, Ps 26:11 and he closes the prayer with comfort and assurance of being heard, Ps 26:12.
Verse 1. Judge me, O Jehovah. A solemn appeal to the just tribunal of the heart searching God, warranted by the circumstances of the writer, so far as regarded the particular offences with which he was wrongly charged. Worried and worn out by the injustice of men, the innocent spirit flies from its false accusers to the throne of Eternal Right. He had need have a clear case who dares to carry his suit into the King's Bench of heaven. Such an appeal as this is not to be rashly made on any occasion; and as to the whole of our walk and conversation, it should never be made at all, except as we are justified in Christ Jesus: a far more fitting prayer for a sinful mortal is the petition, "Enter not into judgment with thy servant." For I have walked in mine integrity. He held integrity as his principle, and walked in it as his practice. David had not used any traitorous or unrighteous means to gain the crown, or to keep it; he was conscious of having been guided by the noblest principles of honour in all his actions with regard to Saul and his family. What a comfort it is to have the approbation of one's own conscience! If there be peace within the soul, the blustering storms of slander which howl around us are of little consideration. When the little bird in my bosom sings a merry song, it is no matter to me if a thousand owls hoot at me from without. I have trusted also in the Lord. Faith is the root and sap of integrity. He who leans upon the Lord is sure to walk in righteousness. David knew that God's covenant had given him the crown, and therefore he took no indirect or unlawful means to secure it; he would not slay his enemy in the cave, nor suffer his men at arms to smite him when he slept unguarded on the plain. Faith will work hard for the Lord, and in the Lord's way, but she refuses so much as to lift a finger to fulfil the devices of unrighteous cunning. Rebecca acted out a great falsehood in order to fulfil the Lord's decree in favour of Jacob — this was unbelief; but Abraham left the Lord to fulfil his own purposes, and took the knife to slay his son — this was faith. Faith trusts God to accomplish his own decrees. Why should I steal when God has promised to supply my need? Why should I avenge myself when I know that the Lord has espoused my cause? Confidence in God is a most effectual security against sin. Therefore I shall not slide. Slippery as the way is, so that I walk like a man upon ice, yet faith keeps my heels from tripping, and will continue to do so. The doubtful ways of policy are sure sooner or later to give a fall to those who run therein, but the ways of honesty, though often rough, are always safe. We cannot trust in God if we walk crookedly; but straight paths and simple faith bring the pilgrim happily to his journey's end.
Verse 2. There are three modes of trial here challenged, which are said in the original to refer to trial by touch, trial by smell, and trial by fire. The psalmist was so clear from the charge laid against him, that he submitted himself unconditionally to any form of examination which the Lord might see fit to employ. Examine me, O Lord. Look me through and through; make a minute survey; put me to the question, cross examine my evidence. And prove me. Put me again to trial; and see if I would follow such wicked designs as my enemies impute to me. Try my reins and my heart. Assay me as metals are assayed in the furnace, and do this to my most secret parts, where my affections hold their court; see, O God, whether or no I love murder, and treason, and deceit. All this is a very bold appeal, and made by a man like David, who feared the Lord exceedingly, it manifests a most solemn and complete conviction of innocence. The expressions here used should teach us the thoroughness of the divine judgment, and the necessity of being in all things profoundly sincere, lest we be found wanting at the last. Our enemies are severe with us with the severity of spite, and this a brave man endures without fear; but God's severity is that of unswerving right. Who shall stand against such a trial? The sweet singer says "Who can stand before his cold?" and we may well enquire, "Who can stand before the heat of his justice?"
Verse 3. For thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes. An object of memory and a ground of hope. A sense of mercy received sets a fair prospect before the faithful mind in its gloomiest condition, for it yields visions of mercies yet to come, visions not visionary but real. Dwell, dear reader, upon that celestial word lovingkindness. It has a heavenly savour. Is it not an unmatchable word, unexcelled, unrivalled? The goodness of the Lord to us should be before our eyes as a motive actuating our conduct; we are not under the bondage of the law, but we are under the sweet constraints of grace, which are far more mighty, although far more gentle. Men sin with the law before their eyes, but divine love, when clearly seen, sanctifies the conversation. If we were not so forgetful of the way of mercy in which God walks toward us, we should be more careful to walk in the ways of obedience toward him. And I have walked in thy truth. The psalmist was preserved from sin by his assurance of the truthfulness of God's promise, which truth he endeavoured to imitate as well as to believe. Observe from this verse that an experience of divine love will show itself in a practical following of divine truth; those who neglect either the doctrinal or practical parts of truth must not wonder if they lose the experimental enjoyment of it. Some talk of truth, it is better to walk in it. Some vow to do well in future, but their resolutions come to nothing; only the regenerate man can say "I have walked in thy truth."
Verses 4-5. So far from being himself an open offender against the laws of God, the psalmist had not even associated with the lovers of evil. He had kept aloof from the men of Belial. A man is known by his company, and if we have kept ourselves apart from the wicked, it will always be evidence in our favour should our character be impugned. He who was never in the parish is not likely to have stolen the corn. He who never went to sea is clearly not the man who scuttled the ship.
Verse 4. I have not sat with vain persons. True citizens have no dealings with traitors. David had no seat in the parliament of triflers. They were not his boon companions at feasts, nor his advisers in council, nor his associates in conversation. We must needs see, and speak, and trade, with men of the world, but we must on no account take our rest and solace in their empty society. Not only the profane, but the vain are to be shunned by us. All those who live for this life only are vain, chaffy, frothy men, quite unworthy of a Christian's friendship. Moreover as this vanity is often allied with falsehood, it is well to save ourselves altogether from this untoward generation, lest we should be led from bad to worse and from tolerating the vain should come to admire the wicked. Neither will I go in with dissemblers. Since I know that hypocritical piety is double iniquity, I will cease all acquaintance with pretenders. If I must need walk the same street, I will not enter the same door and spend my time in their society. The congregation of the hypocrites is not one with which we should cultivate communion; their ultimate rendezvous will be the lowest pit of hell, let us drop their acquaintance now! for we shall not desire it soon. They hang their beads around their necks and carry the devil in their hearts. This clause is in the future tense, to indicate that the writer felt no desire to begin an acquaintance with the characters whom up till then he had shunned. We must maintain the separated path with more and more circumspection as we see the great redemption day approaching. Those who would be transfigured with Jesus, must not be disfigured by conformity to the world. The resolution of the psalmist suggests, that even among professed followers of truth we must make distinctions, for as there are vain persons out of the church, so there are dissemblers in it and both are to be shunned with scrupulous decision.
Verse 5. I have hated the congregation of evil doers. A severe sentence, but not too severe. A man who does not hate evil terribly, does not love good heartily. Men, as men, we must always love, for they are our neighbours, and therefore to be loved as ourselves; but evil doers, as such, are traitors to the Great King, and no loyal subject can love traitors. What God hates we must hate. The congregation or assembly of evil doers, signifies violent men in alliance and conclave for the overthrow of the innocent; such synagogues of Satan are to be held in abhorrence. What a sad reflection it is that there should be a congregation of evil doers as well as a congregation of the upright, a church of Satan as well as a church of God; a seed of the serpent as well as a seed of the woman; an old Babylon as well as a new Jerusalem: a great whore sitting upon many waters, to be judged in wrath, as well as a chaste bride of the Lamb to be crowned at his coming. And will not sit with the wicked. Saints have a seat at another table, and will never leave the King's dainties for the husks of the swine trough. Better to sit with the blind, and the halt, and the lame, at the table of mercy, than with the wicked in their feasts of ungodliness, yea, better to sit on Job's dunghill than on Pharaoh's throne. Let each reader see well to his company, for such as we keep in this world, we are likely to keep in the next.
Verse 6. I will wash mine hands in innocency. He would publicly avow himself to be altogether clear of the accusations laid against him, and if any fault in other matters could be truthfully alleged against him, he would for the future abstain from it. The washing of the hands is a significant action to set forth our having no connection with a deed, as we still say, "I wash my hands of the whole business." As to perfect innocence, David does not here claim it, but he avows his innocence of the crimes whereof he was slanderously accused; there is, however, a sense in which we may be washed in absolute innocency, for the atoning blood makes us clean every whit. We ought never to rest satisfied short of a full persuasion of our complete cleansing by Jesus' precious blood. So will I compass thine altar, O Lord. Priests unto God must take great care to be personally cleansed; the brazen laver was as needful as the golden altar; God's worship requires us to be holy in life. He who is unjust to man cannot be acceptably religious towards God. We must not bring our thank offerings with hands defiled with guilt. To love justice and purity is far more acceptable to God, than ten thousands of the fat of fed beasts. We see from this verse that holy minds delight in the worship of the Lord, and find their sweetest solace at his altar; and that it is their deepest concern never to enter upon any course of action which would unfit them for the most sacred communion with God. Our eye must be upon the altar which sanctifies both the giver and the gift, yet we must never draw from the atoning sacrifice an excuse for sin, but rather find in it a most convincing argument for holiness.
Verse 7. That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving. David was so far instructed that he does not mention the typical offering, but discerns the spiritual offering which was intended thereby, not the groans of bullocks, but songs of gratitude the spiritual worshipper presents. To sound abroad the worthy praises of the God of all grace should be the everyday business of a pardoned sinner. Let men slander us as they will, let us not defraud the Lord of his praises; let dogs bark, but let us like the moon shine on. And tell of all thy wondrous works. God's people should not be tongue tied. The wonders of divine grace are enough to make the tongue of the dumb sing. God's works of love are wondrous if we consider the unworthiness of their objects, the costliness of their method, and the glory of their result. And as men find great pleasure in discoursing upon things remarkable and astonishing, so the saints rejoice to tell of the great things which the Lord hath done for them.
Verse 8. Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house. Into the abodes of sin he would not enter, but the house of God he had long loved, and loved it still. We were sad children if we did not love our Father's dwelling place. Though we own no sacred buildings, yet the church of the living God is the house of God, and true Christians delight in her ordinances, services, and assemblies. O that all our days were Sabbaths! And the place where thine honour dwelleth. In his church where God is had in honour at all times, where he reveals himself in the glory of his grace, and is proclaimed by his people as the Lord of all. We come not together as the Lord's people to honour the preacher, but to give glory to God; such an occupation is most pleasant to the saints of the Most High. What are those gatherings where God is not honoured, are they not an offence to his pure and holy eyes, and are they not a sad stumbling block to the people of God? It brings the scalding tear upon our cheek to hear sermons in which the honour of God is so far from being the preacher's object, that one might almost imagine that the preacher worshipped the dignity of manhood, and thought more of it than of the Infinite Majesty of God.
Verse 9. Gather not my soul with sinners. Lord, when, like fruit, I must be gathered, put me not in the same basket with the best of sinners, much less with the worst of them. The company of sinners is so distasteful to us here, that we cannot endure the thought of being bound up in the same bundle with them to all eternity. Our comfort is, that the Great Husbandman discerns the tares from the wheat, and will find a separate place for distinct characters. In the former verses we see that the psalmist kept himself clear of profane persons, and this is to be understood as a reason why he should not be thrust into their company at the last. Let us think of the doom of the wicked, and the prayer of the text will forcibly rise to our lips; meanwhile, as we see the rule of judgment by which like is gathered to its like, we who have passed from death unto life have nothing to fear. Nor my life with bloody men. Our soul sickens to hear them speak; their cruel dispatches, in which they treat the shooting of their fellow men as rare sport, are horrifying to us; Lord, let us not be shut up in the same prison with them; nay, the same paradise with such men would be a hell, if they remained as they are now.
Verse 10. In whose hands is mischief. They have both hands full of it, plotting it and carrying it out. And their right hand, with which they are most dexterous, is full of bribes; like thieves who would steal with impunity, they carry a sop for the dogs of justice. He who gives bribes is every way as guilty as the man who takes them, and in the matter of our parliamentary elections the rich villain who give the bribe is by far the worse. Bribery, in any form or shape, should be as detestable to a Christian as carrion to a dove, or garbage to a lamb. Let those whose dirty hands are fond of bribes remember that neither death nor the devil can be bribed to let them escape their well earned doom.
Verse 11. Here is the lover of godliness entering his personal protest against unrighteous gain. He is a Nonconformist, and is ready to stand alone in his Nonconformity. Like a live fish, he swims against the stream. Trusting in God, the psalmist resolves that the plain way of righteousness shall be his choice, and those who will, may prefer the tortuous paths of violence and deceit. Yet, he is by no means a boaster, or a self righteous vaunter of his own strength, for he cries for redemption and pleads for mercy. Our integrity is not absolute nor inherent, it is a work of grace in us, and is marred by human infirmity; we must, therefore, resort to the redeeming blood and to the throne of mercy, confessing that though we are saints among men, we must still bow as sinners before God.
Verse 12. The song began in the minor, but it has now reached the major key. Saints often sing themselves into happiness. The even place upon which our foot stands is the sure, covenant faithfulness, eternal promise and immutable oath of the Lord of Hosts; there is no fear of falling from this solid basis, or of its being removed from under us. Established in Christ Jesus, by being vitally united to him, we have nothing left to occupy our thoughts but the praises of our God. Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, and when assembled, let us not be slow to contribute our portion of thanksgiving. Each saint is a witness to divine faithfulness, and should be ready with his testimony. As for the slanderers, let them howl outside the door while the children sing within.
Psalm 27 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)TITLE AND SUBJECT. Nothing whatever can be drawn from the title as to the time when this Psalm was written, for the heading, "A Psalm of David, "is common to so many of the Psalms; but if one may judge from the matter of the song, the writer was pursued by enemies, Ps 27:2-3, was shut out from the house of the Lord, Ps 27:4, was just parting from father and mother, Ps 27:10, and was subject to slander, Ps 27:12; do not all these meet in the time when Doeg, the Edomite, spake against him to Saul? It is a song of cheerful hope, well fitted for those in trial who have learned to lean upon the Almighty arm. The Psalm may with profit be read in a threefold way, as the language of David, of the Church, and of the Lord Jesus. The plenitude of Scripture will thus appear the more wonderful.
DIVISION. The poet first sounds forth his sure confidence in his God, Ps 27:1-3, and his love of communion with him, Ps 27:4-6. He then betakes himself to prayer, Ps 27:7-12, and concludes with an acknowledgment of the sustaining power of faith in his own case, and an exhortation to others to follow his example.
Verse 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, declaring it boldly. "My light; "—into the soul at the new birth divine light is poured as the precursor of salvation; where there is not enough light to see our own darkness and to long for the Lord Jesus, there is no evidence of salvation. Salvation finds us in the dark, but it does not leave us there; it gives light to those who sit in the valley of the shadow of death. 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. Every light is not the sun, but the sun is the father of all lights. 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 is based upon a very different foundation; 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 him who is the author if it; 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?
Verse 2. This verse records a past deliverance, and is an instance of the way in which experience should be employed to reassure our faith in times of trial. Each word is instructive. When the wicked. It is a hopeful sign for us when the wicked hate us; if our foes were godly men it would be a sore sorrow, but as for the wicked their hatred is better than their love. Even mine enemies and my foes. There were many of them, they were of different sorts, but they were unanimous in mischief and hearty in hatred. Came upon me—advanced to the attack, leaping upon the victim like a lion upon its prey. To eat up my flesh, like cannibals they would make a full end of the man, tear him limb from limb, and make a feast for their malice. The enemies of our souls are not deficient in ferocity, they yield no quarter, and ought to have none in return. See in what danger David was; in the grip and grasp of numerous, powerful, and cruel enemies, and yet observe his perfect safety and their utter discomfiture! They stumbled and fell. God's breath blew them off their legs. There were stones in the way which they never reckoned upon, and over these they made an ignominious tumble. This was literally true in the case of our Lord in Gethsemane, when those who came to take him went backward and fell to the ground; and herein he was a prophetic representative of all wrestling believers who, rising from their knees shall, by the power of faith, throw their foes upon their faces.
Verse 3. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear. Before the actual conflict, while as yet the battle is untried, the warrior's heart, being held in suspense, is very liable to become fluttered. The encamping host often inspires greater dread than the same host in actual affray. Young tells us of some — "Who feel a thousand deaths in fearing one." Doubtless the shadow of anticipated trouble is, to timorous minds, a more prolific source of sorrow than the trouble itself, but faith puts a strengthening plaister to the back of courage, and throws out of the window the dregs of the cup of trembling. Though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. When it actually comes to push of pike, faith's shield will ward off the blow; and if the first brush should be but the beginning of a war, yet faith's banners will wave in spite of the foe. Though battle should succeed battle, and one campaign should be followed by another, the believer will not be dismayed at the length of the conflict. Reader, this third verse is the comfortable and logical inference from the second, confidence is the child of experience. Have you been delivered out of great perils? then set up your ensign, wait at your watch fire, and let the enemy do his worst.
Verse 4. One thing. Divided aims tend to distraction, weakness, disappointment. The man of one book is eminent, the man of one pursuit is successful. Let all our affections be bound up in one affection, and that affection set upon heavenly things. Have I desired — what we cannot at once attain, it is well to desire. God judges us very much by the desire of our hearts. He who rides a lame horse is not blamed by his master for want of speed, if he makes all the haste he can, and would make more if he could; God takes the will for the deed with his children. Of the Lord. This is the right target for desires, this is the well into which to dip our buckets, this is the door to knock at, the bank to draw upon; desire of men, and lie upon the dunghill with Lazarus: desire of the Lord, and to be carried of angels into Abraham's bosom. Our desires of the Lord should be sanctified, humble, constant, submissive, fervent, and it is well if, as with the psalmist, they are all molten into one mass. Under David's painful circumstances we might have expected him to desire repose, safety, and a thousand other good things, but no, he has set his heart on the pearl, and leaves the rest. That will I seek after. Holy desires must lead to resolute action. The old proverb says, "Wishers and woulders are never good housekeepers, "and "wishing never fills a sack." Desires are seed which must be sown in the good soil of activity, or they will yield no harvest. We shall find our desires to be like clouds without rain, unless followed up by practical endeavours. That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. For the sake of communion with the King, David longed to dwell always in the palace; so far from being wearied with the services of the Tabernacle, he longed to be constantly engaged in them, as his life long pleasure. He desired above all things to be one of the household of God, a home born child, living at home with his Father. This is our dearest wish, only we extend it to those days of our immortal life which have not yet dawned. We pine for our Father's house above, the home of our souls; if we may but dwell there for ever, we care but little for the goods or ills of this poor life. "Jerusalem the golden" is the one and only goal of our heart's longings. To behold the beauty of the Lord. An exercise both for earthly and heavenly worshippers. We must not enter the assemblies of the saints in order to see and be seen, or merely to hear the minister; we must repair to the gatherings of the righteous, intent upon the gracious object of learning more of the loving Father, more of the glorified Jesus, more of the mysterious Spirit, in order that we may the more lovingly admire, and the more reverently adore our glorious God. What a word is that, "the beauty of the Lord!" Think of it, dear reader! Better far—behold it by faith! What a sight will that be when every faithful follower of Jesus shall behold "the King in his beauty!" Oh, for that infinitely blessed vision! And to enquire in his temple. We should make our visits to the Lord's house enquirers' meetings. Not seeking sinners alone, but assured saints should be enquirers. We must enquire as to the will of God and how we may do it; as to our interest in the heavenly city, and how we may be more assured of it. We shall not need to make enquiries in heaven, for there we shall know even as we are known; but meanwhile we should sit at Jesus' feet, and awaken all our faculties to learn of him.
Verse 5. This verse gives an excellent reason for the psalmist's desire after communion with God, namely, that he was thus secured in the hour of peril. For in the time of trouble, that needy time, that time when others forsake me, he shall hide me in his pavilion: he shall give me the best of shelter in the worst of danger. The royal pavilion was erected in the centre of the army, and around it all the mighty men kept guard at all hours; thus in that divine sovereignty which almighty power is sworn to maintain, the believer peacefully is hidden, hidden not by himself furtively, but by the king, who hospitably entertains him. In the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me. Sacrifice aids sovereignty in screening the elect from harm. No one of old dared to enter the most holy place on pain of death; and if the Lord has hidden his people there, what foe shall venture to molest them? He shall set me up upon a rock. Immutability, eternity, and infinite power here come to the aid of sovereignty and sacrifice. How blessed is the standing of the man whom God himself sets on high above his foes, upon an impregnable rock which never can be stormed! Well may we desire to dwell with the Lord who so effectually protects his people.
Verse 6. And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me. He is quite sure of it. Godly men of old prayed in faith, nothing wavering, and spoke of their answer to their prayers as a certainty. David was by faith so sure of a glorious victory over all those who beset him, that he arranged in his own heart what he would do when his foes lay all prostrate before him; that arrangement was such as gratitude suggested. Therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy. That place for which he longed in his conflict, should see his thankful joy in his triumphant return. He does not speak of jubilations to be offered in his palace, and feastings in his banqueting halls, but holy mirth he selects as most fitting for so divine a deliverance. I will sing. This is the most natural mode of expressing thankfulness. Yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord. The vow is confirmed by repetition, and explained by addition, which addition vows all the praise unto Jehovah. Let who will be silent, the believer when his prayer is heard, must and will make his praise to be heard also; and let who will sing unto the vanities of the world, the believer reserves his music for the Lord alone.
Verse 7. Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice. The pendulum of spirituality swings from prayer to praise. The voice which in the last verse was tuned to music is here turned to crying. As a good soldier, David knew how to handle his weapons, and found himself much at home with the weapon of "all prayer." Note his anxiety to be heard. Pharisees care not a fig for the Lord's hearing them, so long as they are heard of men, or charm their own pride with their sounding devotions; but with a genuine man, the Lord's ear is everything. The voice may be profitably used even in private prayer; for though it is unnecessary, it is often helpful, and aids in preventing distractions. Have mercy also upon me. Mercy is the hope of sinners and the refuge of saints. All acceptable petitioners dwell much upon this attribute. And answer me. We may expect answers to prayer, and should not be easy without them any more than we should be if we had written a letter to a friend upon important business, and had received no reply.
Verse 8. In this verse we are taught that if we would have the Lord hear our voice, we must be careful to respond to his voice. The true heart should echo the will of God as the rocks among the Alps repeat in sweetest music the notes of the peasant's horn. Observe, that the command was in the plural, to all the saints, Seek ye; but the man of God turned it into the singular by a personal application, Thy face, Lord, will I seek. The voice of the Lord is very effectual where all other voices fail. When thou saidst, then my heart, my inmost nature was moved to an obedient reply. Note the promptness of the response—no sooner said than done; as soon as God said "seek, "the heart said, "I will seek." Oh, for more of this holy readiness! Would to God that we were more plastic to the divine hand, more sensitive of the touch of God's Spirit.
Verse 9. Hide not thy face far from me. The word "far" is not in the original, and is a very superfluous addition of the translators, since even the least hiding of the Lord's face is a great affliction to a believer. The command to seek the Lord's face would be a painful one if the Lord, by withdrawing himself, rendered it impossible for the seeker to meet with him. A smile from the Lord is the greatest of comforts, his frown the worst of ills. Put not thy servant away in anger. Other servants had been put away when they proved unfaithful, as for instance, his predecessor Saul; and this made David, while conscious of many faults, most anxious that divine long suffering should continue him in favour. This is a most appropriate prayer for us under a similar sense of unworthiness. Thou hast been my help. How truly can we join in this declaration; for many years, in circumstances of varied trial, we have been upheld by our God, and must and will confess our obligation. "Ingratitude, "it is said, "is natural to fallen man, "but to spiritual men it is unnatural and detestable. Leave me not, neither forsake me. A prayer for the future, and an inference from the past. If the Lord had meant to leave us, why did he begin with us? Past help is but a waste of effort if the soul now be deserted. The first petition, "leave me not, "may refer to temporary desertions, and the second word to the final withdrawal of grace, both are to be prayed against; and concerning the second, we have immutable promises to urge. O God of my salvation. A sweet title worthy of much meditation.
Verse 10. When my father and my mother forsake me. These dear relations will be the last to desert me, but if the milk of human kindness should dry up even from their breasts, there is a Father who never forgets. Some of the greatest of the saints have been cast out by their families, and persecuted for righteousness' sake. Then the Lord will take me up. Will espouse my cause, will uplift me from my woes, will carry me in his arms, will elevate me above my enemies, will at last receive me to his eternal dwelling place.
Verse 11. Teach me thy way, O Lord. He does not pray to be indulged with his own way, but to be informed as to the path in which the righteous Jehovah would have him walk. This prayer evinces an humble sense of personal ignorance, great teachableness of spirit, and cheerful obedience of heart. Lead me in a plain path. Help is here sought as well as direction; we not only need a map of the way, but a guide to assist us in the journey. A path is here desired which shall be open, honest, straightforward, in opposition to the way of cunning, which is intricate, tortuous, dangerous. Good men seldom succeed in fine speculations and doubtful courses; plain simplicity is the best spirit for an heir of heaven: let us leave shifty tricks and political expediencies to the citizens of the world—the New Jerusalem owns plain men for its citizens. Esau was a cunning hunter, Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents. Because of mine enemies. These will catch us if they can, but the way of manifest, simple honesty is safe from their rage. It is wonderful to observe how honest simplicity baffles and outwits the craftiness of wickedness. Truth is wisdom. "Honesty is the best policy."
Verse 12. Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies; or I should be like a victim cast to the lions, to be rent in pieces and utterly devoured. God be thanked that our foes cannot have their way with us, or Smithfield would soon be on a blaze again. For false witnesses are risen up against me. Slander is an old fashioned weapon out of the armoury of hell, and is still in plentiful use; and no matter how holy a man may be, there will be some who will defame him. "Give a dog an ill name, and hang him; "but glory be to God, the Lord's people are not dogs, and their ill names do not injure them. And such as breathe out cruelty. It is their vital breath to hate the good; they cannot speak without cursing them; such was Paul before conversion. They who breathe out cruelty may well expect to be sent to breathe their native air in hell; let persecutors beware!
Verse 13. Faintness of heart is a common infirmity; even he who slew Goliath was subject to its attacks. Faith puts its bottle of cordial to the lip of the soul, and so prevents fainting. Hope is heaven's balm for present sorrow. In this land of the dying, it is our blessedness to be looking and longing for our fair portion in the land of the living, whence the goodness of God has banished the wickedness of man, and where holy spirits charm with their society those persecuted saints who were vilified and despised among men. We must believe to see, not see to believe; we must wait the appointed time, and stay our soul's hunger with foretastes of the Lord's eternal goodness which shall soon be our feast and our song.
Verse 14. Wait on the Lord. Wait at his door with prayer; wait at his foot with humility; wait at his table with service; wait at his window with expectancy. Suitors often win nothing but the cold shoulder from earthly patrons after long and obsequious waiting; he speeds best whose patron is in the skies. Be of good courage. A soldier's motto. Be it mine. Courage we shall need, and for the exercise of it we have as much reason as necessity, if we are soldiers of King Jesus. And he shall strengthen thine heart. He can lay the plaister right upon the weak place. Let the heart be strengthened, and the whole machine of humanity is filled with power; a strong heart makes a strong arm. What strength is this which God himself gives to the heart? Read the "Book of Martyrs, "and see its glorious deeds of prowess; go to God rather, and get such power thyself. Wait, I say, on the Lord. David, in the words "I say, "sets his own private seal to the word which, as an inspired man, he had been moved to write. It is his testimony as well as the command of God, and indeed he who writes these scanty notes has himself found it so sweet, so reviving, so profitable to draw near to God, that on his own account he also feels bound to write, "Wait, I SAY, on the Lord."
Psalm 28 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)TITLE AND SUBJECT. Again, the title "A Psalm of David," is too general to give us any clue to the occasion on which it was written. Its position, as following the twenty-seventh, seems to have been designed, for it is a most suitable pendant and sequel to it. It is another of those "songs in the night" of which the pen of David was so prolific. The thorn at the breast of the nightingale was said by the old naturalists to make it sing: David's griefs made him eloquent in holy psalmody. The main pleading of this Psalm is that the suppliant may not be confounded with the workers of iniquity for whom he expresses the utmost abhorrence; it may suit any slandered saint, who being misunderstood by men, and treated by them as an unworthy character, is anxious to stand aright before the bar of God. The Lord Jesus may be seen here pleading as the representative of his people.
DIVISION. The first and second verses earnestly entreat audience of the Lord in a time of dire emergency. From Ps 28:2-5, the portion of the wicked is described and deprecated. In Ps 28:6-8, praise is given for the Lord's mercy in hearing prayer, and the Psalm concludes with a general petition for the whole host of militant believers.
Verse 1. Unto thee will I cry, O Lord, my rock. A cry is the natural expression of sorrow, and is a suitable utterance when all other modes of appeal fail us; but the cry must be alone directed to the Lord, for to cry to man is to waste our entreaties upon the air. When we consider the readiness of the Lord to hear, and his ability to aid, we shall see good reason for directing all our appeals at once to the God of our salvation, and shall use language of firm resolve like that in the text, "I will cry." The immutable Jehovah is our rock, the immovable foundation of all our hopes and our refuge in time of trouble: we are fixed in our determination to flee to him as our stronghold in every hour of danger. It will be in vain to call to the rocks in the day of judgment, but our rock attends to our cries. Be not silent to me. Mere formalists may be content without answers to their prayers, but genuine suppliants cannot; they are not satisfied with the results of prayer itself in calming the mind and subduing the will—they must go further and obtain actual replies from heaven, or they cannot rest; and those replies they long to receive at once, if possible; they dread even a little of God's silence. God's voice is often so terrible that it shakes the wilderness; but his silence is equally full of awe to an eager suppliant. When God seems to close his ear, we must not therefore close our mouths, but rather cry with more earnestness; for when our note grows shrill with eagerness and grief, he will not long deny us a hearing. What a dreadful case should we be in if the Lord should become for ever silent to our prayers! This thought suggested itself to David, and he turned it into a plea, thus teaching us to argue and reason with God in our prayers. Lest, if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit. Deprived of the God who answers prayer, we should be in a more pitiable plight than the dead in the grave, and should soon sink to the same level as the lost in hell. We must have answers to prayer: ours is an urgent case of dire necessity; surely the Lord will speak peace to our agitated minds, for he never can find it in his heart to permit his own elect to perish.
Verse 2. This is much to the same effect as the first verse, only that it refers to future as well as present pleadings. Hear me! Hear me! Hear the voice of my supplications! This is the burden of both verses. We cannot be put off with a refusal when we are in the spirit of prayer; we labour, use importunity, and agonize in supplications until a hearing is granted us. The word "supplications, "in the plural, shows the number, continuance, and variety of a good man's prayers, while the expression "hear the voice, "seems to hint that there is an inner meaning, or heart voice, about which spiritual men are far more concerned than for their outward and audible utterances. A silent prayer may have a louder voice than the cries of those priests who sought to awaken Baal with their shouts. When I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle: which holy place was the type of our Lord Jesus; and if we would gain acceptance, we must turn ourselves evermore to the blood besprinkled mercy seat of his atonement. Uplifted hands have ever been a form of devout posture, and are intended to signify a reaching upward towards God, a readiness, an eagerness to receive the blessing sought after. We stretch out empty hands, for we are beggars; we lift them up, for we seek heavenly supplies; we lift them towards the mercy seat of Jesus, for there our expectation dwells. O that whenever we use devout gestures, we may possess contrite hearts, and so speed well with God.
Verse 3. Draw me not away with the wicked. They shall be dragged off to hell like felons of old drawn on a hurdle to Tyburn, like logs drawn to the fire, like fagots to the oven. David fears lest he should be bound up in their bundle, drawn to their doom; and the fear is an appropriate one for every godly man. The best of the wicked are dangerous company in time, and would make terrible companions for eternity; we must avoid them in their pleasures, if we would not be confounded with them in their miseries. And with the workers of iniquity. These are overtly sinful, and their judgment will be sure; Lord, do not make us to drink of their cup. Activity is found with the wicked even if it be lacking to the righteous. Oh! to be "workers" for the Lord. Which speak peace to their neighbours, but mischief is in their hearts. They have learned the manners of the place to which they are going: the doom of liars is their portion for ever, and lying is their conversation on the road. Soft words, oily with pretended love, are the deceitful meshes of the infernal net in which Satan catches the precious life; many of his children are learned in his abominable craft, and fish with their father's nets, almost as cunningly as he himself could do it. It is a sure sign of baseness when the tongue and the heart do not ring to the same note. Deceitful men are more to be dreaded than wild beasts: it were better to be shut up in a pit with serpents than to be compelled to live with liars. He who cries "peace" too loudly, means to sell it if he can get his price. "Good wine need no bush:" if he were so very peaceful he would not need to say so; he means mischief, make sure of that.
Verse 4. When we view the wicked simply as such, and not as our fellow men, our indignation against sin leads us entirely to coincide with the acts of divine justice which punish evil, and to wish that justice might use her power to restrain by her terrors the cruel and unjust; but still the desires of the present verse, as our version renders it, are not readily made consistent with the spirit of the Christian dispensation, which seeks rather the reformation than the punishment of sinners. If we view the words before us as prophetic, or as in the future tense, declaring a fact, we are probably nearer to the true meaning than that given in our version. Ungodly reader, what will be your lot when the Lord deals with you according to your desert, and weighs out to you his wrath, not only in proportion to what you have actually done, but according to what you would have done if you could. Our endeavours are taken as facts; God takes the will for the deed, and punishes or rewards accordingly. Not in this life, but certainly in the next, God will repay his enemies to their faces, and give them the wages of their sins. Not according to their fawning words, but after the measure of their mischievous deeds, will the Lord mete out vengeance to them that know him not.
Verse 5. Because they regard not the works of the Lord, nor the operation of his hands. God works in creation—nature teems with proofs of his wisdom and goodness, yet purblind atheists refuse to see him: he works in providence, ruling and overruling, and his hand is very manifest in human history, yet the infidel will not discern him: he works in grace—remarkable conversions are still met with on all hands, yet the ungodly refuse to see the operations of the Lord. Where angels wonder, carnal men despise. God condescends to teach, and man refuses to learn. He shall destroy them: he will make them "behold, and wonder, and perish." If they would not see the hand of judgment upon others, they shall feel it upon themselves. Both soul and body shall be overwhelmed with utter destruction for ever and ever. And not build them up. God's cure is positive and negative; his sword has two edges, and cuts right and left. Their heritage of evil shall prevent the ungodly receiving any good; the ephah shall be too full of wrath to contain a grain of hope. They have become like old, rotten, decayed houses of timber, useless to the owner, and harbouring all manner of evil, and, therefore, the Great Builder will demolish them utterly. Incorrigible offenders may expect speedy destruction: they who will not mend, shall be thrown away as worthless. Let us be very attentive to all the lessons of God's word and work, lest being found disobedient to the divine will, we be made to suffer the divine wrath.
Verse 6. Blessed be the Lord. Saints are full of benedictions; they are a blessed people, and a blessing people; but they give their best blessings, the fat of their sacrifices, to their glorious Lord. Our Psalm was prayer up to this point, and now it turns to praise. They who pray well, will soon praise well: prayer and praise are the two lips of the soul; two bells to ring out sweet and acceptable music in the ears of God; two angels to climb Jacob's ladder: two altars smoking with incense; two of Solomon's lilies dropping sweet smelling myrrh; they are two young roes that are twins, feeding upon the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense. Because he hath heard the voice of my supplications. Real praise is established upon sufficient and constraining reasons; it is not irrational emotion, but rises, like a pure spring, from the deeps of experience. Answered prayers should be acknowledged. Do we not often fail in this duty? Would it not greatly encourage others, and strengthen ourselves, if we faithfully recorded divine goodness, and made a point of extolling it with our tongue? God's mercy is not such an inconsiderable thing that we may safely venture to receive it without so much as thanks. We should shun ingratitude, and live daily in the heavenly atmosphere of thankful love.
Verse 7. Here is David's declaration and confession of faith, coupled with a testimony from his experience. The Lord is my strength. The Lord employs his power on our behalf, and moreover, infuses strength into us in our weakness. The psalmist, by an act of appropriating faith, takes the omnipotence of Jehovah to be his own. Dependence upon the invisible God gives great independence of spirit, inspiring us with confidence more than human. And my shield. Thus David found both sword and shield in his God. The Lord preserves his people from unnumbered ills; and the Christian warrior, sheltered behind his God, is far more safe than the hero when covered with his shield of brass or triple steel. My heart trusted in him, and I am helped. Heart work is sure work; heart trust is never disappointed. Faith must come before help, but help will never be long behindhand. Every day the believer may say, "I am helped, "for the divine assistance is vouchsafed us every moment, or we should go back unto perdition; when more manifest help is needed, we have but to put faith into exercise, and it will be given us. Therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him. The heart is mentioned twice to show the truth of his faith and his joy. Observe the adverb "greatly, "we need not be afraid of being too full of rejoicing at the remembrance of grace received. We serve a great God, let us greatly rejoice in him. A song is the soul's fittest method of giving vent to its happiness, it were well if we were more like the singing lark, and less like the croaking raven. When the heart is glowing, the lips should not be silent. When God blesses us, we should bless him with all our heart.
Verse 8. The Lord is their strength. The heavenly experience of one believer is a pattern of the life of all. To all the militant church, without exception, Jehovah is the same as he was to his servant David, "the least of them shall be as David." They need the same aid and they shall have it, for they are loved with the same love, written in the same book of life, and one with the same anointed Head. And he is the saving strength of his anointed. Here behold king David as the type of our Lord Jesus, our covenant Head, our anointed Prince, through whom all blessings come to us. He has achieved full salvation for us, and we desire saving strength from him, and as we share in the unction which is so largely shed upon him, we expect to partake of his salvation. Glory be unto the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has magnified the power of his grace in his only begotten Son, whom he has anointed to be a Prince and a Saviour unto his people.
Verse 9. This is a prayer for the church militant, written in short words, but full of weighty meaning. We must pray for the whole church, and not for ourselves alone. Save thy people. Deliver them from their enemies, preserve them from their sins, succour them under their troubles, rescue them from their temptations, and ward off from them every ill. There is a plea hidden in the expression, "thy people:" for it may be safely concluded that God's interest in the church, as his own portion, will lead him to guard it from destruction. Bless thine inheritance. Grant positive blessings, peace, plenty, prosperity, happiness; make all thy dearly purchased and precious heritage to be comforted by thy Spirit. Revive, refresh, enlarge, and sanctify thy church. Feed them also. Be a shepherd to thy flock, let their bodily and spiritual wants be plentifully supplied. By thy word, and ordinances, direct, rule, sustain, and satisfy those who are the sheep of thy hand. And lift them up for ever. Carry them in thine arms on earth, and then lift them into thy bosom in heaven. Elevate their minds and thoughts, spiritualise their affections, make them heavenly, Christlike, and full of God. O Lord, answer this our petition, for Jesus' sake.
Psalm 29 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)TITLE. A Psalm of David. The title affords us no information beyond the fact that David is the author of this sublime song.
SUBJECT. It seems to be the general opinion of modern annotators, that this Psalm is meant to express the glory of God as heard in the pealing thunder, and seen in the equinoctial tornado. Just as the eighth Psalm is to be read by moonlight, when the stars are bright, as the nineteenth needs the rays of the rising sun to bring out its beauty, so this can be best rehearsed beneath the black wing of tempest, by the glare of the lightning, or amid that dubious dusk which heralds the war of elements. The verses march to the tune of thunderbolts. God is everywhere conspicuous, and all the earth is hushed by the majesty of his presence. The word of God in the law and gospel is here also depicted in its majesty of power. True ministers are sons of thunder, and the voice of God in Christ Jesus is full of majesty. Thus we have God's works and God's word joined together: let no man put them asunder by a false idea that theology and science can by any possibility oppose each other. We may, perhaps, by a prophetic glance, behold in this Psalm the dread tempests of the latter days, and the security of the elect people.
DIVISION. The first two verses are a call to adoration. From Ps 29:3-10 the path of the tempest is traced, the attributes of God's word are rehearsed, and God magnified in all the terrible grandeur of his power; and the last verse sweetly closes the scene with the assurance that the omnipotent Jehovah will give both strength and peace to his people. Let heaven and earth pass away, the Lord will surely bless his people.
Verse 1. Give, i.e., ascribe. Neither men nor angels can confer anything upon Jehovah, but they should recognise his glory and might, and ascribe it to him in their songs and in their hearts. Unto the Lord, and unto him alone, must honour be given. Natural causes, as men call them, are God in action, and we must not ascribe power to them, but to the infinite Invisible who is the true source of all. O ye mighty. Ye great ones of earth and of heaven, kings and angels, join in rendering worship to the blessed and only Potentate; ye lords among men need thus to be reminded, for ye often fail where humbler men are ardent; but fail no longer, bow your heads at once, and loyally do homage to the King of kings. How frequently do grandees and potentates think it beneath them to fear the Lord; but, when they have been led to extol Jehovah, their piety has been the greatest jewel in their crowns. Give unto the Lord glory and strength, both of which men are too apt to claim for themselves, although they are the exclusive prerogatives of the self existent God. Let crowns and swords acknowledge their dependence upon God. Not to your arms, O kings, give ye the glory, nor look for strength to your hosts of warriors, for all your pomp is but as a fading flower, and your might is as a shadow which declineth. When shall the day arrive when kings and princes shall count it their delight to glorify their God? "All worship be to God only, "let this be emblazoned on every coat of arms. "Black from the stroke above, the smouldering pine The repercussive roar: with mighty crash The tempest growls; but as it nearer comes, "The gloomy woods
Verse 2. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name. A third time the admonition is given, for men are backward in glorifying God, and especially great men, who are often too much swollen with their own glory to spare time to give God his rightful praise, although nothing more is asked of them than is most just and right. Surely men should not need so much pressing to give what is due, especially when the payment is so pleasant. Unbelief and distrust, complaining and murmuring, rob God of his honour; in this respect, even the saints fail to give due glory to their King. Worship the Lord, bow before him with devout homage and sacred awe, and let your worship be such as he appoints. Of old, worship was cumbered with ceremonial, and men gathered around one dedicated building, whose solemn pomp was emblematic of the beauty of holiness; but now our worship is spiritual, and the architecture of the house and the garments of the worshippers are matters of no importance; the spiritual beauty of inward purity and outward holiness being far more precious in the eyes of our thrice holy God. O for grace ever to worship with holy motives and in a holy manner, as becometh saints! The call to worship in these two verses chimes in with the loud pealing thunder, which is the church bell of the universe ringing kings and angels, and all the sons of earth to their devotions.
Verse 3. The voice of the Lord is upon the waters. The thunder is not only poetically but instructively called "the voice of God, "since it peals from on high; it surpasses all other sounds, it inspires awe, it is entirely independent of man, and has been used on some occasions as the grand accompaniment of God's speech to Adam's sons. There is a peculiar terror in a tempest at sea, when deep calleth unto deep, and the raging sea echoes to the angry sky. No sight more alarming than the flash of lightning around the mast of the ship; and no sound more calculated to inspire reverent awe than the roar of the storm. The children of heaven have often enjoyed the tumult with humble joy peculiar to the saints, and even those who know not God have been forced into unwilling reverence while the storm has lasted. The glory of God thundereth. Thunder is in truth no mere electric phenomenon, but is caused by the interposition of God himself. Even the old heathen spake of Jupiter Tonans; but our modern wise men will have us believe in laws and forces, and anything or nothing so they may be rid of God. Electricity of itself can do nothing, it must be called and sent upon its errand; and until the almighty Lord commissions it, its bolt of fire is inert and powerless. As well might a rock of granite, or a bar of iron fly in the midst of heaven, as the lightning go without being sent by the great First Cause. The Lord is upon many waters. Still the Psalmist's ear hears no voice but that of Jehovah, resounding from the multitudinous and dark waters of the upper ocean of clouds, and echoing from the innumerable billows of the storm tossed sea below. The waters above and beneath the firmament are astonished at the eternal voice. When the Holy Spirit makes the divine promise to be heard above the many waters of our soul's trouble, then is God as glorious in the spiritual world as in the universe of matter. Above us and beneath us all is the peace of God when he gives us quiet.
Verse 4. The voice of the Lord is powerful. An irresistible power attends the lightning of which the thunder is the report. In an instant, when the Lord wills it, the force of electricity produces amazing results. A writer upon this subject, speaks of these results as including a light of the intensity of the sun in his strength, a heat capable of fusing the most compact metals, a force in a moment paralysing the muscles of the most powerful animals; a power suspending the all pervading gravity of the earth, and an energy capable of decomposing and recomposing the closest affinities of the most intimate combinations. Well does Thompson speak of "the unconquerable lightning, "for it is the chief of the ways of God in physical forces, and none can measure its power. As the voice of God in nature is so powerful, so is it in grace; the reader will do well to draw a parallel, and he will find much in the gospel which may be illustrated by the thunder of the Lord in the tempest. His voice, whether in nature or revelation, shakes both earth and heaven; see that ye refuse not him that speaketh. If his voice be thus mighty, what must his hand be! beware lest ye provoke a blow. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. The King of kings speaks like a king. As when a lion roareth, all the beasts of the forest are still, so is the earth hushed and mute while Jehovah thundereth marvellously.
"It is listening fear and dumb amazement all."
As for the written word of God, its majesty is apparent both in its style, its matter, and its power over the human mind; blessed be God, it is the majesty of mercy wielding a silver sceptre; of such majesty the word of our salvation is full to overflowing.
Verse 5. The voice of the Lord breaketh the cedars.
Stands a sad shattered trunk."
Verse 6. He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn. Not only the trees, but the mountains themselves move as though they frisked and leaped like young bulls or antelopes. As our own poets would mention hills and valleys known to them, so the Psalmist hears the crash and roar among the ranges of Libanus, and depicts the tumult in graphic terms. Thus sings one of our own countrymen:—"Amid Carnavon's mountains rages loud
Into the flashing deep, from the rude rocks
Of Penmaen Mawr, heaped hideous to the sky,
Tumble the smitten cliffs; and Snowdon's peak,
Dissolving, instant yields his wintry load.
Far seen, the heights of heathy Cheviot blaze,
And Thule bellows through her utmost isles."
Verse 7. The voice of the Lord divideth the flames of fire. As when sparks fly from the anvil by blows of a ponderous hammer, so the lightning attends the thundering strokes of Jehovah. "At first heard solemn over the verge of heaven,
And rolls its awful burden on the wind,
The lightnings flash a larger curve, and more
The noise astounds: till overhead a sheet
Of livid flame discloses wide; then shuts
And opens wider; shuts and opens still
Expansive, wrapping ether in a blaze."
Verse 8. As the storm travelled, it burst over the desert. The voice of the Lord shaketh the wilderness; the Lord shaketh the wilderness of Kadesh. God courts not the applause of men—his grandest deeds are wrought where man's inquisitive glance is all unknown. Where no sound of man was heard, the voice of God was terribly distinct. The vast and silent plains trembled with affright. Silence did homage to the Almighty voice. Low lying plains must hear the voice of God as well as lofty mountains; the poor as well as the mighty must acknowledge the glory of the Lord. Solitary and barren places are to be gladdened by the gospel's heavenly sound. What a shaking and overturning power there is in the word of God! even the conservative desert quivers into progress when God decrees it.
Verse 9. The voice of the Lord maketh the hinds to calve, those timid creatures, in deadly fear of the tempest, drop their burdens in an untimely manner. Perhaps a better reading is, "the oaks to tremble, "especially as this agrees with the next sentence, and discovereth the forests. The dense shades of the forest are lit up with the lurid glare of the lightning, and even the darkest recesses are for a moment laid bare.
Start at the flash, and from their deep recesses
Wide flaming out, their trembling inmates shake."
Verse 10. The Lord sitteth upon the flood. Flood follows tempest, but Jehovah is ready for the emergency. No deluge can undermine the foundation of his throne. He is calm and unmoved, however much the deep may roar and be troubled: his government rules the most unstable and boisterous of created things. Far out on the wild waste of waters, Jehovah "plants his footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm, "Yea, the Lord sitteth King for ever. Jesus has the government upon his shoulders eternally: our interests in the most stormy times are safe in his hands. Satan is not a king, but Jehovah Jesus is; therefore let us worship him, and rejoice evermore.
Verse 11. Power was displayed in the hurricane whose course this Psalm so grandly pictures; and now, in the cool calm after the storm, that power is promised to be the strength of the chosen. He who wings the unerring bolt, will give to his redeemed the wings of eagles; he who shakes the earth with his voice, will terrify the enemies of his saints, and give his children peace. Why are we weak when we have divine strength to flee to? Why are we troubled when the Lord's own peace is ours? Jesus the mighty God is our peace—what a blessing is this today! What a blessing it will be to us in that day of the Lord which will be in darkness and not light to the ungodly! Dear reader, is not this a noble Psalm to be sung in stormy weather? Can you sing amid the thunder? Will you be able to sing when the last thunders are let loose, and Jesus judges quick and dead? If you are a believer, the last verse is your heritage, and surely that will set you singing.
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.
"Black from the stroke above, the smouldering pine
The repercussive roar: with mighty crash
The tempest growls; but as it nearer comes,
"The gloomy woods
Psalm 30 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)TITLE. A Psalm and Song at the Dedication of the House of David; or rather, A Psalm; a Song of Dedication for the House. By David. A song of faith since the house of Jehovah, here intended, David never lived to see. A Psalm of praise, since a sore judgment had been stayed, and a great sin forgiven. From our English version it would appear that this Psalm was intended to be sung at the building of that house of cedar which David erected for himself, when he no longer had to hide himself in the Cave of Adullam, but had become a great king. If this had been the meaning, it would have been well to observe that it is right for the believer when removing, to dedicate his new abode to God. We should call together our Christian friends, and show that where we dwell, God Dwells, and where we have a tent, God has an altar. But as the song refers to the temple, for which it was David's joy to lay by in store, and for the site of which he purchased in his later days the floor of Ornan, we must content ourselves with remarking the holy faith which foresaw the fulfilment of the promise made to him concerning Solomon. Faith can sing—
"Glory to thee for all the grace
I have not tasted yet."
Verse 1. I will extol thee. I will have high and honourable conceptions of thee, and give them utterance in my best music. Others may forget thee, murmur at thee, despise thee, blaspheme thee, but "I will extol thee, "for I have been favoured above all others. I will extol thy name, thy character, thine attributes, thy mercy to me, thy great forbearance to my people; but, especially will I speak well of thyself; "I will extol thee, "O Jehovah; this shall be my cheerful and constant employ. For thou hast lifted me up. Here is an antithesis, "I will exalt thee, for thou hast exalted me." I would render according to the benefits received. The Psalmist's praise was reasonable. He had a reason to give for the praise that was in his heart. He had been drawn up like a prisoner from a dungeon, like Joseph out of the pit, and therefore he loved his deliverer. Grace has uplifted us from the pit of hell, from the ditch of sin, from the Slough of Despond, from the bed of sickness, from the bondage of doubts and fears: have we no song to offer for all this? How high has our Lord lifted us? Lifted us up into the children's place, to be adopted into the family; lifted us up into union with Christ, "to sit together with him in heavenly places." Lift high the name of our God, for he has lifted us up above the stars. And hast not made my foes to rejoice over me. This was the judgment which David most feared out of the three evils; he said, let me fall into the hand of the Lord, and not into the hand of man. Terrible indeed were our lot if we were delivered over to the will of our enemies. Blessed be the Lord, we have been preserved from so dire a fate. The devil and all our spiritual enemies have not been permitted to rejoice over us; for we have been saved from the fowler's snare. Our evil companions, who prophesied that we should go back to our old sins, are disappointed. Those who watched for our halting, and would fain say, "Aha! Aha! So would we have it!" have watched in vain until now. O happy they whom the Lord keeps so consistent in character that the lynx eyes of the world can see no real fault in them. Is this our case? let us ascribe all the glory to him who has sustained us in our integrity. "Lord, let me weep for nought for sin! "I would begin the music here,
Verse 2. O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me. David sent up prayers for himself and for his people when visited with the pestilence. He went at once to head quarters, and not roundabout to fallible means. God is the best physician, even for our bodily infirmities. We do very wickedly and foolishly when we forget God. It was a sin in Asa that he trusted to physicians and not to God. If we must have a physician, let it be so, but still let us go to our God first of all; and, above all, remember that there can be no power to heal in medicine of itself; the healing energy must flow from the divine hand. If our watch is out of order, we take it to the watchmaker; if our body or soul be in an evil plight, let us resort to him who created them, and has unfailing skill to put them in right condition. As for our spiritual diseases, nothing can heal these evils but the touch of the Lord Christ: if we do but touch the hem of his garment, we shall be made whole, while if we embrace all other physicians in our arms, they can do us no service. "O Lord my God." Observe the covenant name which faith uses—"my God." Thrice happy is he who can claim the Lord himself to be his portion. Note how David's faith ascends the scale; he sang "O Lord" in the first verse, but it is "O Lord my God, "in the second. Heavenly heart music is an ascending thing, like the pillars of smoke which rose from the altar of incense. I cried unto thee. I could hardly pray, but I cried; I poured out my soul as a little child pours out its desires. I cried to my God: I knew to whom to cry; I did not cry to my friends, or to any arm of flesh. Hence the sure and satisfactory result—Thou hast healed me. I know it. I am sure of it. I have the evidence of spiritual health within me now: glory be to thy name! Every humble suppliant with God who seeks release from the disease of sin, shall speed as well as the Psalmists did, but those who will not so much as seek a cure, need not wonder if their wounds putrefy and their soul dies.
Verse 3. O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave. Mark, it is not "I hope so; "but it is, "Thou hast; thou hast; thou hast"—three times over. David is quite sure, beyond a doubt, that God has done great things for him, whereof he is exceeding glad. He had descended to the brink of the sepulchre, and yet was restored to tell of the forbearance of God; nor was this all, he owned that nothing but grace had kept him from the lowest hell, and this made him doubly thankful. To be spared from the grave is much; to be delivered from the pit is more; hence there is growing cause for praise, since both deliverances are alone traceable to the glorious right hand of the Lord, who is the only preserver of life, and the only Redeemer of our souls from hell.
Verse 4. Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his. "Join my song; assist me to express my gratitude." He felt that he could not praise God enough himself, and therefore he would enlist the hearts of others. Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his. David would not fill his choir with reprobates, but with sanctified persons, who could sing from their hearts. He calls to you, ye people of God, because ye are saints: and if sinners are wickedly silent, let your holiness constrain you to sing. You are his saints—chosen, blood bought, called, and set apart for God; sanctified on purpose that you should offer the daily sacrifice of praise. Abound ye in this heavenly duty. Sing unto the Lord. It is a pleasing exercise; it is a profitable engagement. Do not need to be stirred up so often to so pleasant a service. And give thanks. Let your songs be grateful songs, in which the Lord's mercies shall live again in joyful remembrance. The very remembrance of the past should tune our harps, even if present joys be lacking. At the remembrance of his holiness. Holiness is an attribute which inspires the deepest awe, and demands a reverent mind; but still give thanks at the remembrance of it. "Holy, holy, holy!" is the song of seraphim and cherubim; let us join it—not dolefully, as though we trembled at the holiness of God, but cheerfully, as humbly rejoicing in it.
Verse 5. For his anger endureth but a moment. David here alludes to those dispensations of God's providence which are the chastisement ordered in his paternal government towards his erring children, such as the plague which fell upon Jerusalem for David's sins; these are but short judgments, and they are removed as soon as real penitence sues for pardon and presents the great and acceptable sacrifice. What a mercy is this, for if the Lord's wrath smoked for a long season, flesh would utterly fail before him. God puts up his rod with great readiness as soon as its work is done; he is slow to anger and swift to end it. If his temporary and fatherly anger be so severe that it has need be short, what must be the terror of eternal wrath exercised by the Judge towards his adversaries? In his favour is life. As soon as the Lord looked favourably upon David, the city lived, and the king's heart lived too. We die like withered flowers when the Lord frowns, but his sweet smile revives us as the dews refresh the field. His favour not only sweetens and cheers life, but it is life itself, the very essence of life. Who would know life, let him seek the favour of the Lord. Weeping may endure for a night; but nights are not for ever. Even in the dreary winter the day star lights his lamp. It seems fit that in our nights the dews of grief should fall. When the Bridegroom's absence makes it dark within, it is meet that the widowed soul should pine for a renewed sight of the Well beloved. But joy cometh in the morning. When the Sun of Righteousness comes, we wipe our eyes, and joy chases out intruding sorrow. Who would not be joyful that knows Jesus? The first beams of the morning brings us comfort when Jesus is the day dawn, and all believers know it to be so. Mourning only lasts to morning: when the night is gone the gloom shall vanish. This is adduced as a reason for saintly singing, and forcible reason it is; short nights and merry days call for the psaltery and harp.
Verse 6. In my prosperity. When all his foes were quiet, and his rebellious son dead and buried, then was the time of peril. Many a vessel founders in a calm. No temptation is so bad as tranquillity. I said, I shall never be moved. Ah! David, you said more than was wise to say, or even to think, for God has founded the world upon the floods, to show us what a poor, mutable, moveable, inconstant world it is. Unhappy he who builds upon it! He builds himself a dungeon for his hopes. Instead of conceiving that we shall never be moved, we ought to remember that we shall very soon be removed altogether. Nothing is abiding beneath the moon. Because I happen to be prosperous today, I must not fancy that I shall be in my high estate tomorrow. As in a wheel, the uppermost spokes descend to the bottom in due course, so it is with mortal conditions. There is a constant revolution: many who are in the dust today shall be highly elevated tomorrow; while those who are now aloft shall soon grind the earth. Prosperity had evidently turned the psalmist's head, or he would not have been so self confident. He stood by grace, and yet forgot himself, and so met with a fall. Reader, is there not much of the same proud stuff in all our hearts? let us beware lest the fumes of intoxicating success get into our brains and make fools of us also.
Verse 7. Lord, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong. He ascribed his prosperity to the Lord's favour—so far good, it is well to own the hand of the Lord in all our stability and wealth. But observe that the good in a good man is not unmingled good, for this was alloyed with carnal security. His state he compares to a mountain, a molehill would have been nearer—we never think too little of ourselves. He boasted that his mountain stood strong, and yet he had before, in Psalm 29, spoken of Sirion and Lebanon as moving like young unicorns. Was David's state more firm than Lebanon? Ah, vain conceit, too common to us all! How soon the bubble bursts when God's people get conceit into their heads, and fancy that they are to enjoy immutability beneath the stars, and constancy upon this whirling orb. How touchingly and teachingly God corrected his servant's mistake: Thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled. There was no need to come to blows, a hidden face was enough. This proves, first, that David was a genuine saint, for no hiding of God's face on earth would trouble a sinner; and, secondly, that the joy of the saint is dependent upon the presence of his Lord. No mountain, however firm, can yield us rest when our communion with God is broken, and his face is concealed. However, in such a case, it is well to be troubled. The next best thing to basking in the light of God's countenance, is to be thoroughly unhappy when that bliss is denied us.
And after none but thee!
And then I would—O that I might,
A constant weeper be!"
Verse 9. In this verse we learn the form and method of David's prayer. It was an argument with God, an urging of reasons, a pleading of his cause. It was not a statement of doctrinal opinions, nor a narration of experience, much less a sly hit at other people under pretence of praying to God, although all these things and worse have been substituted for holy supplication at certain prayer meetings. He wrestled with the angel of the covenant with vehement pleadings, and therefore he prevailed. Head and heart, judgment and affections, memory and intellect were all at work to spread the case aright before the Lord of love. What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Wilt thou not lose a songster from thy choir, and one who loves to magnify thee? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth? Will there not be one witness the less to thy faithfulness and veracity? Spare, then, thy poor unworthy one for thine own name sake!
Verse 10. Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me. A short and comprehensive petition, available at all seasons, let us use it full often. It is the publican's prayer; be it ours. If God hears prayer, it is a great act of mercy; our petitions do not merit a reply. Lord, be thou my helper. Another compact, expressive, ever fitting prayer. It is suitable to hundreds of the cases of the Lord's people; it is well becoming in the minister when he is going to preach, to the sufferer upon the bed of pain, to the toiler in the field of service, to the believer under temptation, to the man of God under adversity; when God helps, difficulties vanish. He is the help of his people, a very present help in trouble. The two brief petitions of this verse are commended as ejaculations to believers full of business, denied to those longer seasons of devotion which are the rare privilege of those whose days are spent in retirement.
Verse 11. Observe the contrast, God takes away the mourning of his people; and what does he give them instead of it? Quiet and peace? Aye, and a great deal more than that. Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing. He makes their hearts to dance at the sound of his name. He takes off their sackcloth. That is good. What a delight to be rid of the habiliments of woe! But what then? He clothes us. And how? With some common dress? Nay, but with that royal vestment which is the array of glorified spirits in heaven. Thou hast girded me with gladness. This is better than to wear garments of silk or cloth of gold, bedight with embroidery and bespangled with gems. Many a poor man wears this heavenly apparel wrapped around his heart, though fustian and corduroy are his only outward garb; and such a man needs not envy the emperor in all his pomp. Glory be to thee, O God, if, by a sense of full forgiveness and present justification, thou hast enriched my spiritual nature, and filled me with all the fulness of God.
Verse 12. To the end—namely, with this view and intent—that my glory—that is, my tongue or my soul—may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. It would be a shameful crime, if, after receiving God's mercies, we should forget to praise him. God would not have our tongues lie idle while so many themes for gratitude are spread on every hand. He would have no dumb children in the house. They are all to sing in heaven, and therefore they should all sing on earth. Let us sing with the poet:
And so my soul should rise:
Oh for some heavenly notes to bear
My passions to the skies."
O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.
"I will praise him in life; I will praise him in death;
I will praise him as long as he lendeth me breath;
And say when the death dew lays cold on my brow,
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, it is now."
"Lord, let me weep for nought for sin!
"I would begin the music here,
By Don Carson 4/20/2018
David was in deep trouble. The exact circumstances may be obscure to us, as we who live three thousand years later probe the details. But we do know that David was shut up in a besieged city (Ps. 31:21) and felt trapped. He was so threatened that he flirted with despair. And that is when he felt abandoned by God himself: “In my alarm I said, ‘I am cut off from your sight!’” (31:22) Love the LORD, all his saints!
That is the worst despair of all — to feel that God has abandoned you. It was part of Job’s torment. Job felt he could mount a case in his own defense, if only he could find God long enough to argue with him. But the heavens were silent, and the silence multiplied his despair.
We have already reflected on the fact that it was fear of being abandoned by God that kept Jacob wrestling with the unknown man in the darkness (Gen. 32:22-32) and kept Moses pressing God to abandon his threat to remain outside the camp of the rebellious Israelites (Ex. 32 — 34). In a theistic universe, there can be nothing worse than being truly abandoned by God himself. The worst of hell’s torments is that men and women are truly abandoned by God. “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”
Yet the sad reality is that we who bear God’s image oscillate between fearing abandonment by God, and wanting to escape from his presence. The same David who wrote this psalm was not particularly eager to delight in the presence of God when he was lusting after Bathsheba and plotting to murder her husband. Too often we would like God to look the other way when we hanker to thumb our noses at him and insist on following our own paths, and we would like God to demonstrate his presence and his glory to us, and certainly get us out of trouble, when we find ourselves in desperate straits.
What an incalculable blessing that God is better than our fears. He does not owe us succor, relief, or rescue. Even our cries of alarm — “I am cut off from your sight!” — may have more to do with desperate unbelief than with candid pleas for help. But David’s experience may prove an encouragement to us, for he quickly pens two more lines: “Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help” (31:22).
The LORD preserves the faithful,
but the proud he pays back in full.
Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the LORD. (Ps. 31:23-24)
Love the LORD, all his saints!
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
Psalm 31 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)TITLE. To the Chief Musician — a Psalm of David. The dedication to the chief musician proves that this song of mingled measures and alternate strains of grief and woe was intended for public singing, and thus a deathblow is given to the notion that nothing but praise should be sung. Perhaps the Psalms, thus marked, might have been set aside as too mournful for temple worship, if special care had not been taken by the Holy Spirit to indicate them as being designed for the public edification of the Lord's people. May there not also be in Psalms thus designated a peculiar distinct reference to the Lord Jesus? He certainly manifests himself very clearly in the twenty-second, which bears this title; and in the one before us we plainly hear his dying voice in the fifth verse. Jesus is chief everywhere, and in all the holy songs of his saints he is the chief musician. The surmises that Jeremiah penned this Psalm need no other answer than the fact that it is "a Psalm of David."
SUBJECT. The psalmist in dire affliction appeals to his God for help with much confidence and holy importunity, and ere long finds his mind so strengthened that he magnifies the Lord for his great goodness. Some have thought that the occasion in his troubled life which led to this Psalm, was the treachery of the men of Keilah, and we have felt much inclined to this conjecture; but after reflection it seems to us that its very mournful tone, and its allusion to his iniquity demand a later date, and it may be more satisfactory to illustrate it by the period when Absalom had rebelled, and his courtiers were fled from him, while lying lips spread a thousand malicious rumours against him. It is perhaps quite as well that we have no settled season mentioned, or we might have been so busy in applying it to David's case as to forget its suitability to our own.
DIVISION. There are no great lines of demarcation; throughout the strain undulates, falling into valleys of mourning, and rising with hills of confidence. However, we may for convenience arrange it thus: David testifying his confidence in God pleads for help, Ps 31:1-6; expresses gratitude for mercies received, Ps 31:7-8; particularly describes his case, Ps 31:9-13; vehemently pleads for deliverance, Ps 31:14-18; confidently and thankfully expects a blessing, Ps 31:19-22; and closes by showing the bearing of his case upon all the people of God.
Verse 1. In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust. Nowhere else do I fly for shelter, let the tempest howl as it may. The psalmist has one refuge, and that the best one. He casts out the great sheet anchor of his faith in the time of storm. Let other things be doubtful, yet the fact that he relies on Jehovah, David lays down most positively; and he begins with it, lest by stress of trial he should afterwards forget it. This avowal of faith is the fulcrum by means of which he labours to uplift and remove his trouble; he dwells upon it as a comfort to himself and a plea with God. No mention is made of merit, but faith relies upon divine favour and faithfulness, and upon that alone. Let me never be ashamed. How can the Lord permit the man to be ultimately put to shame who depends alone upon him? This would not be dealing like a God of truth and grace. It would bring dishonour upon God himself if faith were not in the end rewarded. It will be an ill day indeed for religion when trust in God brings no consolation and no assistance. Deliver me in thy righteousness. Thou are not unjust to desert a trustful soul, or to break thy promises; thou wilt vindicate the righteousness of thy mysterious providence, and give me joyful deliverance. Faith dares to look even to the sword of justice for protection: while God is righteous, faith will not be left to be proved futile and fanatical. How sweetly the declaration of faith in this first verse sounds, if we read it at the foot of the cross, beholding the promise of the Father as yea and amen through the Son; viewing God with faith's eye as he stands revealed in Jesus crucified.
Verse 2. Bow down thine ear to me. Condescend to my low estate; listen to me attentively as one who would hear every word. Heaven with its transcendent glories of harmony might well engross the divine ear, but yet the Lord has an hourly regard to the weakest moanings of his poorest people. Deliver me speedily. We must not set times or seasons, yet in submission we may ask for swift as well as sure mercy. God's mercies are often enhanced in value by the timely haste which he uses in their bestowal; if they came late they might be too late — but he rides upon a cherub, and flies upon the wings of the wind when he intends the good of his beloved. Be thou my strong rock. Be my Engedi, my Adullam; my immutable, immovable, impregnable, sublime, resort. For an house of defence to save me, wherein I may dwell in safety, not merely running to thee for temporary shelter, but abiding in thee for eternal salvation. How very simply does the good man pray, and yet with what weight of meaning! he uses no ornamental flourishes, he is too deeply in earnest to be otherwise than plain: it were well if all who engage in public prayer would observe the same rule.
Verse 3. For thou art my rock and my fortress. Here the tried soul avows yet again its full confidence in God. Faith's repetitions are not vain. The avowal of our reliance upon God in times of adversity is a principle method of glorifying him. Active service is good, but the passive confidence of faith is not one jot less esteemed in the sight of God. The words before us appear to embrace and fasten upon the Lord with a fiducial grip which is not to be relaxed. The two personal pronouns, like sure nails, lay hold upon the faithfulness of the Lord. O for grace to have our heart fixed in firm unstaggering belief in God! The figure of a rock and a fortress may be illustrated to us in these times by the vast fortress of Gibraltar, often besieged by our enemies, but never wrested from us: ancient strongholds, though far from impregnable by our modes of warfare, were equally important in those remoter ages — when in the mountain fastnesses, feeble bands felt themselves to be secure. Note the singular fact that David asked the Lord to be his rock Ps 31:2 because he was his rock; and learn from it that we may pray to enjoy in experience what we grasp by faith. Faith is the foundation of prayer. Therefore for thy name's sake lead me, and guide me. The psalmist argues like a logician with his fors and therefores. Since I do sincerely trust thee, saith he, O my God, be my director. To lead and to guide are two things very like each other, but patient thought will detect different shades of meaning, especially as the last may mean provide for me. The double word indicates an urgent need — we require double direction, for we are fools, and the way is rough. Lead me as a soldier, guide me as a traveller! lead me as a babe, guide me as a man; lead me when thou art with me, but guide me even if thou be absent; lead me by thy hand, guide me by thy word. The argument used is one which is fetched from the armoury of free grace: not for my own sake, but for thy name's sake guide me. Our appeal is not to any fancied virtue in our own names, but to the glorious goodness and graciousness which shines resplendent in the character of Israel's God. It is not possible that the Lord should suffer his own honour to be tarnished, but this would certainly be the case if those who trusted him should perish. This was Moses' plea, "What wilt thou do unto thy great name?"
Verse 4. Pull me out of the net that they have laid privily for me. The enemies of David were cunning as well as mighty; if they could not conquer him by power, they would capture him by craft. Our own spiritual foes are of the same order — they are of the serpent's brood, and seek to ensnare us by their guile. The prayer before us supposes the possibility of the believer being caught like a bird; and, indeed, we are so foolish that this often happens. So deftly does the fowler do his work that simple ones are soon surrounded by it. The text asks that even out of the meshes of the net the captive one may be delivered; and this is a proper petition, and one which can be granted; from between the jaws of the lion and out of the belly of hell can eternal love rescue the saint. It may need a sharp pull to save a soul from the net of temptation, and a mighty pull to extricate a man from the snares of malicious cunning, but the Lord is equal to every emergency, and the most skilfully placed nets of the hunter shall never be able to hold his chosen ones. Woe unto those who are so clever at net laying: they who tempt others shall be destroyed themselves. Villains who lay traps in secret shall be punished in public. For thou art my strength. What an inexpressible sweetness is to be found in these few words! How joyfully may we enter upon labours, and how cheerfully may we endure sufferings when we can lay hold upon celestial power. Divine power will rend asunder all the toils of the foe, confound their politics and frustrate their knavish tricks; he is a happy man who has such matchless might engaged upon his side. Our own strength would be of little service when embarrassed in the nets of base cunning, but the Lord's strength is ever available; we have but to invoke it, and we shall find it near at hand. If by faith we are depending alone upon the strength of the strong God of Israel, we may use our holy reliance as a plea in supplication.
Verse 5. Into thine hand I commit my spirit. These living words of David were our Lord's dying words, and have been frequently used by holy men in their hour of departure. Be assured that they are good, choice, wise, and solemn words; we may use them now and in the last tremendous hour. Observe, the object of the good man's solicitude in life and death is not his body or his estate, but his spirit; this is his jewel, his secret treasure; if this be safe, all is well. See what he does with his pearl! He commits it to the hand of his God; it came from him, it is his own, he has aforetime sustained it, he is able to keep it, and it is most fit that he should receive it. All things are safe in Jehovah's hands; what we entrust to the Lord will be secure, both now and in that day of days towards which we are hastening. Without reservation the good man yields himself to his heavenly Father's hand; it is enough for him to be there; it is peaceful living and glorious dying to repose in the care of heaven. At all times we should commit and continue to commit our all to Jesus' sacred care, then, though life may hang on a thread, and adversities may multiply as the sands of the sea, our soul shall dwell at ease, and delight itself in quiet resting places. Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth. Redemption is a solid base for confidence. David had not known Calvary as we have done, but temporal redemption cheered him; and shall not eternal redemption yet more sweetly console us? Past deliverances are strong pleas for present assistance. What the Lord has done he will do again, for he changes not. He is a God of veracity, faithful to his promises, and gracious to his saints; he will not turn away from his people.
Verse 6. I have hated them that regard lying vanities. Those who will not lean upon the true arm of strength, are sure to make to themselves vain confidences. Man must have a god, and if he will not adore the only living and true God, he makes a fool of himself, and pays superstitious regard to a lie, and waits with anxious hope upon a base delusion. Those who did this were none of David's friends; he had a constant dislike to them: the verb includes the present as well as the past tense. He hated them for hating God; he would not endure the presence of idolaters; his heart was set against them for their stupidity and wickedness. He had no patience with their superstitious observances, and calls their idols vanities of emptiness, nothings of nonentity. Small courtesy is more than Romanists and Puseyists deserve for their fooleries. Men who make gods of their riches, their persons, their wits, or anything else, are to be shunned by those whose faith rests upon God in Christ Jesus; and so far from being envied, they are to be pitied as depending upon utter vanities. But I trust in the Lord. This might be very unfashionable, but the psalmist dared to be singular. Bad example should not make us less decided for the truth, but the rather in the midst of general defection we should grow the more bold. This adherence to his trust in Jehovah is the great plea employed all along: the troubled one flies into the arms of his God, and ventures everything upon the divine faithfulness.
Verse 7. I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy. For mercy past he is grateful, and for mercy future, which he believingly anticipates, he is joyful. In our most importunate intercessions, we must find breathing time to bless the Lord: praise is never a hindrance to prayer, but rather a lively refreshment therein. It is delightful at intervals to hear the notes of the high sounding cymbals when the dolorous sackbut rules the hour. Those two words, glad and rejoice, are an instructive reduplication, we need not stint ourselves in our holy triumph; this wine we may drink in bowls without fear of excess. For thou hast considered my trouble. Thou hast seen it, weighed it, directed it, fixed a bound to it, and in all ways made it a matter of tender consideration. A man's consideration means the full exercise of his mind; what must God's consideration be? Thou hast known my soul in adversities. God owns his saints when others are ashamed to acknowledge them; he never refuses to know his friends. He thinks not the worse of them for their rags and tatters. He does not misjudge them and cast them off when their faces are lean with sickness, or their hearts heavy with despondency. Moreover, the Lord Jesus knows us in our pangs in a peculiar sense, by having a deep sympathy towards us in them all; when no others can enter into our griefs, from want of understanding them experimentally, Jesus dives into the lowest depths with us, comprehending the direst of our woes, because he has felt the same. Jesus is a physician who knows every case; nothing is new to him. When we are so bewildered as not to know our own state, he knows us altogether. He has known us and will know us: O for grace to know more of him! "Man, know thyself, "is a good philosophic precept, but "Man, thou art known of God, "is a superlative consolation. Adversities in the plural — "Many are the afflictions of the righteous."
Verse 8. And hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy. To be shut up in one's hand is to be delivered over absolutely to his power; now, the believer is not in the hand of death or the devil, much less is he in the power of man. The enemy may get a temporary advantage over us, but we are like men in prison with the door open; God will not let us be shut up, he always provides a way of escape. Thou hast set my feet in a large room. Blessed be God for liberty: civil liberty is valuable, religious liberty is precious, spiritual liberty is priceless. In all troubles we may praise God if these are left. Many saints have had their greatest enlargements of soul when their affairs have been in the greatest straits. Their souls have been in a large room when their bodies have been lying in Bonner's coal hole, or in some other narrow dungeon. Grace has been equal to every emergency; and more than this, it has made the emergency an opportunity for displaying itself.
Verse 9. Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am in trouble. Now, the man of God comes to a particular and minute description of his sorrowful case. He unbosoms his heart, lays bare his wounds, and expresses his inward desolation. This first sentence pithily comprehends all that follows, it is the text for his lamenting discourse. Misery moves mercy — no more reasoning is needed. "Have mercy" is the prayer; the argument is as prevalent as it is plain and personal, "I am in trouble." Mine eye is consumed with grief. Dim and sunken eyes are plain indicators of failing health. Tears draw their salt from our strength, and floods of them are very apt to consume the source from which they spring. God would have us tell him the symptoms of our disease, not for his information, but to show our sense of need. Yea, my soul and my belly (or body). Soul and body are so intimately united, that one cannot decline without the other feeling it. We, in these days, are not strangers to the double sinking which David describes; we have been faint with physical suffering, and distracted with mental distress: when two such seas meet, it is well for us that the Pilot at the helm is at home in the midst of the water floods, and makes storms to become the triumph of his art.
Verse 10. For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing. It had become his daily occupation to mourn; he spent all his days in the dungeon of distress. The sap and essence of his existence was being consumed, as a candle is wasted while it burns. His adversities were shortening his days, and digging for him an early grave. Grief is a sad market to spend all our wealth of life in, but a far more profitable trade may be driven there than in Vanity Fair; it is better to go to the house of mourning than the house of feasting. Black is good wear. The salt of tears is a healthy medicine. Better spend our years in sighing than in sinning. The two members of the sentence before us convey the same idea; but there are no idle words in Scripture, the reduplication is the fitting expression of fervency and importunity. My strength faileth because of mine iniquity. David sees to the bottom of his sorrow, and detects sin lurking there. It is profitable trouble which leads us to trouble ourselves about our iniquity. Was this the psalmist's foulest crime which now gnawed at his heart, and devoured his strength? Very probably it was so. Sinful morsels, though sweet in the mouth, turn out to be poison in the bowels: if we wantonly give a portion of our strength to sin, it will by and by take the remainder from us. We lose both physical, mental, moral, and spiritual vigour by iniquity. And my bones are consumed. Weakness penetrated the innermost parts of his system, the firmest parts of his frame felt the general decrepitude. A man is in a piteous plight when he comes to this.
Verse 11. I was a reproach among all mine enemies. They were pleased to have something to throw at me; my mournful estate was music to them, because they maliciously interpreted it to be a judgment from heaven upon me. Reproach is little thought of by those who are not called to endure it, but he who passes under its lash knows how deep it wounds. The best of men may have the bitterest foes, and be subject to the most cruel taunts. But especially among my neighbours. Those who are nearest can stab the sharpest. We feel most the slights of those who should have shown us sympathy. Perhaps David's friends feared to be identified with his declining fortunes, and therefore turned against him in order to win the mercy if not the favour of his opponents. Self interest rules the most of men: ties the most sacred are soon snapped by its influence, and actions of the utmost meanness are perpetrated without scruple. And a fear to mine acquaintance. The more intimate before, the more distant did they become. Our Lord was denied by Peter, betrayed by Judas, and forsaken by all in the hour of his utmost need. All the herd turn against a wounded deer. The milk of human kindness curdles when a despised believer is the victim of slanderous accusations. They that did see me without fled from me. Afraid to be seen in the company of a man so thoroughly despised, those who once courted his society hastened from him as though he had been infected with the plague. How villainous a thing is slander which can thus make an eminent saint, once the admiration of his people, to become the general butt, the universal aversion of mankind! To what extremities of dishonour may innocence be reduced!
Verse 12. I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind. All David's youthful prowess was now gone from remembrance; he had been the saviour of his country, but his services were buried in oblivion. Men soon forget the deepest obligations; popularity is evanescent to the last degree: he who is in every one's mouth today may be forgotten by all tomorrow. A man had better be dead than be smothered in slander. Of the dead we say nothing but good, but in the psalmist's case they said nothing but evil. We must not look for the reward of philanthropy this side of heaven, for men pay their best servants but sorry wages, and turn them out of doors when no more is to be got out of them. I am like a broken vessel, a thing useless, done for, worthless, cast aside, forgotten. Sad condition for a king! Let us see herein the portrait of the King of kings in his humiliation, when he made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant.
Verse 13. For I have heard the slander of many. One slanderous viper is death to all comfort — what must be the venom of a whole brood? What the ear does not hear the heart does not rue; but in David's case the accusing voices were loud enough to break in upon his quiet — foul mouths had grown so bold, that they poured forth their falsehoods in the presence of their victim. Shimei was but one of a class, and his cry of "Go up, thou bloody man, "was but the common speech of thousands of the sons of Belial. All Beelzebub's pack of hounds may be in full cry against a man, and yet he may be the Lord's anointed. Fear was on every side. He was encircled with fearful suggestions, threatenings, remembrances, and forebodings; no quarter was clear from incessant attack. While they took counsel together against me, they devised to take away my life. The ungodly act in concert in their onslaughts upon the excellent of the earth: it is to be wondered at that sinners should often be better agreed than saints, and generally set about their wicked work with much more care and foresight than the righteous exhibit in holy enterprises. Observe the cruelty of a good man's foes! they will be content with nothing less than his blood — for this they plot and scheme. Better fall into the power of a lion than under the will of malicious persecutors, for the beast may spare its prey if it be fed to the full, but malice is unrelenting and cruel as a wolf. Of all fiends the most cruel is envy. How sorely was the psalmist bestead when the poisoned arrows of a thousand bows were all aimed at his life! Yet in all this his faith did not fail him, nor did his God forsake him. Here is encouragement for us.
Verses 14-18. In this section of the Psalm he renews his prayers, urging the same pleas as at first: earnest wrestlers attempt over and over again the same means of gaining their point.
Verse 14. But I trusted in thee, O Lord. Notwithstanding all afflicting circumstances, David's faith maintained its hold, and was not turned aside from its object. What a blessed saving clause is this! So long as our faith, which is our shield, is safe, the battle may go hard, but its ultimate result is no matter of question; if that could be torn from us, we should be as surely slain as were Saul and Jonathan upon the high places of the field. I said, Thou art my God. He proclaimed aloud his determined allegiance to Jehovah. He was no fair weather believer, he could hold to his faith in a sharp frost, and wrap it about him as a garment fitted to keep out all the ills of time. He who can say what David did need not envy Cicero his eloquence: "Thou art my God, "has more sweetness in it than any other utterance which human speech can frame. Note that this adhesive faith is here mentioned as an argument with God to honour his own promise by sending a speedy deliverance.
Verse 15. My times are in thy hand. The sovereign arbiter of destiny holds in his own power all the issues of our life; we are not waifs and strays upon the ocean of fate, but are steered by infinite wisdom towards our desired haven. Providence is a soft pillow for anxious heads, an anodyne for care, a grave for despair. Deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me. It is lawful to desire escape from persecution if it be the Lord's will; and when this may not be granted us in the form which we desire, sustaining grace will give us deliverance in another form, by enabling us to laugh to scorn all the fury of the foe.
Verse 16. Make thy face to shine upon thy servant. Give me the sunshine of heaven in my soul, and I will defy the tempests of earth. Permit me to enjoy a sense of thy favour, O Lord, and a consciousness that thou art pleased with my manner of life, and all men may frown and slander as they will. It is always enough for a servant if he pleases his master; others may be dissatisfied, but he is not their servant, they do not pay him his wages, and their opinions have no weight with him. Save me for thy mercies' sake. The good man knows no plea but mercy; whoever might urge legal pleas David never dreamed of it.
Verse 17. Let me not be ashamed, O Lord; for I have called upon thee. Put not my prayers to the blush! Do not fill profane mouths with jeers at my confidence in my God. Let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave. Cause them to their amazement to see my wrongs righted and their own pride horribly confounded. A milder spirit rules our prayers under the gentle reign of the Prince of Peace, and, therefore, we can only use such words as these in their prophetic sense, knowing as we do full well, that shame and the silence of death are the best portion that ungodly sinners can expect. That which they desired for despised believers shall come upon themselves by a decree of retributive justice, at which they cannot cavil — "As he loved mischief, so let it come upon him."
Verse 18. Let the lying lips be put to silence. A right good and Christian prayer; who but a bad man would give liars more license than need be? May God silence them either by leading them to repentance, by putting them to thorough shame, or by placing them in positions where what they may say will stand for nothing. Which speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous. The sin of slanderers lies partly in the matter of their speech; "they speak grievous things; "things cutting deep into the feelings of good men, and wounding them sorely in that tender place — their reputations. The sin is further enhanced by the manner of their speech; they speak proudly and contemptuously; they talk as if they themselves were the cream of society, and the righteous the mere scum of vulgarity. Proud thoughts of self are generally attended by debasing estimates of others. The more room we take up ourselves, the less we can afford our neighbours. What wickedness it is that unworthy characters should always be the loudest in railing at good men! They have no power to appreciate moral worth of which they are utterly destitute, and yet they have the effrontery to mount the judgment seat, and judge the men compared with whom they are as so much chaff. Holy indignation may well prompt us to desire anything which may rid the world of such unbearable impertinence and detestable arrogance.
Verses 19-22. Being full of faith, the psalmist gives glory to God for the mercy which he is assured will be his position.
Verse 19. Oh how great is thy goodness. Is it not singular to find such a joyful sentence in connection with so much sorrow? Truly the life of faith is a miracle. When faith led David to his God, she set him singing at once. He does not tell us how great was God's goodness, for he could not; there are no measures which can set forth the immeasurable goodness of Jehovah, who is goodness itself. Holy amazement uses interjections where adjectives utterly fail. Notes of exclamation suit us when words of explanation are of no avail. If we cannot measure we can marvel; and though we may not calculate with accuracy, we can adore with fervency. Which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee. The psalmist in contemplation divides goodness into two parts, that which is in store and that which is wrought out. The Lord has laid up in reserve for his people supplies beyond all count. In the treasury of the covenant, in the field of redemption, in the caskets of the promises, in the granaries of providence, the Lord has provided for all the needs which can possibly occur to his chosen. We ought often to consider the laid up goodness of God which has not yet been distributed to the chosen, but is already provided for them: if we are much in such contemplations, we shall be led to feel devout gratitude, such as glowed in the heart of David. Which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men. Heavenly mercy is not all hidden in the storehouse; in a thousand ways it has already revealed itself on behalf of those who are bold to avow their confidence in God; before their fellow men this goodness of the Lord has been displayed, that a faithless generation might stand rebuked. Overwhelming are the proofs of the Lord's favour to believers, history teems with amazing instances, and our own lives are full of prodigies of grace. We serve a good Master. Faith receives a large reward even now, but looks for her full inheritance in the future. Who would not desire to take his lot with the servants of a Master whose boundless love fills all holy minds with astonishment?
Verse 20. Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man. Pride is a barbed weapon: the proud man's contumely is iron which entereth into the soul; but those who trust in God, are safely housed in the Holy of holies, the innermost court, into which no man may dare intrude; here in the secret dwelling place of God the mind of the saint rests in peace, which the foot of pride cannot disturb. Dwellers at the foot of the cross of Christ grow callous to the sneers of the haughty. The wounds of Jesus distil a balsam which heals all the scars which the jagged weapons of contempt can inflict upon us; in fact, when armed with the same mind which was in Christ Jesus, the heart is invulnerable to all the darts of pride. Thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues. Tongues are more to be dreaded than beasts of prey — and when they strive, it is as though a whole pack of wolves were let loose; but the believer is secure even in this peril, for the royal pavilion of the King of kings shall afford him quiet shelter and serene security. The secret tabernacle of sacrifice, and the royal pavilion of sovereignty afford a double security to the Lord's people in their worst distresses. Observe the immediate action of God, "Thou shalt hide, ""Thou shalt keep, "the Lord himself is personally present for the rescue of his afflicted.
Verse 21. Blessed be the Lord. When the Lord blesses us we cannot do less than bless him in return. For he hath shewed me his marvellous kindness in a strong city. Was this in Mahanaim, where the Lord gave him victory over the hosts of Absalom? Or did he refer to Rabbath of Ammon, where he gained signal triumphs? Or, best of all, was Jerusalem the strong city where he most experienced the astonishing kindness of his God? Gratitude is never short of subjects; her Ebenezers stand so close together as to wall up her path to heaven on both sides. Whether in cities or in hamlets our blessed Lord has revealed himself to us, we shall never forget the hallowed spots: the lonely mount of Hermon, or the village of Emmaus, or the rock of Patmos, or the wilderness of Horeb, are all alike renowned when God manifests himself to us in robes of love.
Verse 22. Confession of faults is always proper; and when we reflect upon the goodness of God, we ought to be reminded of our own errors and offences. For I said in my haste. We generally speak amiss when we are in a hurry. Hasty words are but for a moment on the tongue, but they often lie for years on the conscience. I am cut off from before thine eyes. This was an unworthy speech; but unbelief will have a corner in the heart of the firmest believer, and out of that corner it will vent many spiteful things against the Lord if the course of providence be not quite so smooth as nature might desire. No saint ever was, or ever could be, cut off from before the eyes of God, and yet no doubt many have thought so, and more than one has said so. For ever be such dark suspicions banished from our minds. Nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee. What a mercy that if we believe not, yet God abideth faithful, hearing prayer even when we are labouring under doubts which dishonour his name. If we consider the hindrances in the way of our prayers, and the poor way in which we present them, it is a wonder of wonders that they ever prevail with heaven.
Verse 23. O love the Lord, all ye his saints. A most affecting exhortation, showing clearly the deep love of the writer to his God: there is the more beauty in the expression, because it reveals love toward a smiting God, love which many waters could not quench. To bless him who gives is easy, but to cling to him who takes away is a work of grace. All the saints are benefited by the sanctified miseries of one, if they are led by earnest exhortations to love their Lord the better. If saints do not love the Lord, who will? Love is the universal debt of all the saved family: who would wish to be exonerated from its payment? Reasons for love are given, for believing love is not blind. For the Lord preserveth the faithful. They have to bide their time, but the recompense comes at last, and meanwhile all the cruel malice of their enemies cannot destroy them. And plentifully rewardeth the proud doer. This also is cause for gratitude: pride is so detestable in its acts that he who shall mete out to it its righteous due, deserves the love of all holy minds.
Verse 24. Be of good courage. Keep up your spirit, let no craven thoughts blanch your cheek. Fear weakens, courage strengthens. Victory waits upon the banners of the brave. And he shall strengthen your heart. Power from on high shall be given in the most effectual manner by administering force to the fountain of vitality. So far from leaving us, the Lord will draw very near to us in our adversity, and put his own power into us. All ye that hope in the Lord. Every one of you, lift up your heads and sing for joy of heart. God is faithful, and does not fail even his little children who do but hope, wherefore then should we be afraid?
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Psalm 66How Awesome Are Your Deeds
66 To The Choirmaster. A Song. A Psalm.
1 Shout for joy to God, all the earth;
2 sing the glory of his name;
give to him glorious praise!
3 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.
4 All the earth worships you
and sings praises to you;
they sing praises to your name.” Selah
5 Come and see what God has done:
he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.
6 He turned the sea into dry land;
they passed through the river on foot.
There did we rejoice in him,
7 who rules by his might forever,
whose eyes keep watch on the nations—
let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah
By Gleason Archer Jr.
35 | Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon | Ecclesiastes
THE HEBREW TITLE for this book is Qōhelet, which apparently meant the preacher’s office, and then became a term for the preacher himself. It is derived from the root qāhal, meaning “to convoke an assembly,” hence, “to address an assembly.” The author of this work so refers to himself in numerous passages, and therefore this is a fitting designation. The Greek term ecclēsiastēs is a good translation of this term, for it too means “preacher” and is derived from ekklēsia, meaning “assembly.”
Purpose and Theme of Ecclesiastes
The purpose of Ecclesiastes was to convince men of the uselessness of any world view which does not rise above the horizon of man himself. It pronounces the verdict of “vanity of vanities” upon any philosophy of life which regards the created world or human enjoyment as an end in itself. To view personal happiness as the highest good in life is sheer folly in view of the preeminent value of God Himself as over against His created universe. Nor can happiness ever be attained by pursuing after it, since such a pursuit involves the foolishness of self-deification. Having shown the vanity of living for worldly goals, the author clears the way for a truly adequate world view which recognizes God Himself as the highest value of all, and the meaningful life as the one which is lived in His service. Only as a vehicle for the expression of divine wisdom, goodness, and truth, does the world itself possess any real significance. It is only God’s work that endures, and only He can impart abiding value to the life and activity of man. “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it” ( Eccl. 3:14 ).
Outline of Ecclesiastes
I. First discourse: the vanity of human wisdom, 1:1–2:26
A. Basic theme: vanity of all merely human effort and experience, 1:1–3
B. Demonstration of the theme, 1:4–2:26
1. Meaningless cycle of human life and history, 1:4–11
2. Ultimate uselessness of human wisdom and philosophy, 1:12–18
3. Emptiness of the enjoyments of pleasure and wealth, 2:1–11
4. Ultimate death of even the wise, 2:12–17
5. Futility of leaving fruits of hard work to undeserving heirs, 2:18–23
6. Necessity of contentment with God’s providences, 2:24–26
II. Second discourse: coming to terms with the laws which govern life, 3:1–5:20
A. The prudent attitude in view of the facts of life and death, 3:1–22
1. A proper time must be recognized for each activity and experience, 3:1–9
2. God is the only guarantor of abiding values, 3:10–15
3. God will punish the unrighteous, visiting death upon all, 3:16–18
4. Man must share physical death with animals, 3:19–20
5. Unsure of the life beyond, man must make the best of this present life, 3:21–22
B. The disappointments of earthly life, 4:1–16
1. Cruelty and misery make life a dubious blessing, 4:1–3
2. Disadvantages are cited for materialistic success, laziness, and insatiable covetousness, 4:4–8
3. Life’s trials are better faced by partners than alone, 4:9–12
4. Political success is temporary and unstable, 4:13–16
C. Futility of the self-seeking life, 5:1–20
1. Presenting to God false sacrifices, vain words, unkept promises is folly, 5:1–7
2. Retribution overtakes oppressors and disappointment is in store for the covetous, 5:8–17
3. Thankful enjoyment of God’s gifts brings contentment, 5:18–20
III. Third discourse: no satisfaction in earthly goods and treasures, 6:1–8:17
A. Inadequacy of attainments esteemed by the world, 6:1–12
1. Neither wealth nor large family can bring final satisfaction to the soul, 6:1–6
2. Neither the wise nor the foolish attain satisfaction in their heart, 6:7–9
3. Apart from God, man cannot even discern the real reason for life, 6:10–12
B. Counsels of prudence in this sin-corrupted world, 7:1–29
1. True values are best gauged from the perspective of sorrow and death, 7:1–4
2. Cheap gaiety, dishonest gain, and shortness of temper are but pitfalls, 7:5–9
3. Wisdom is a greater asset than financial wealth in coping with life, 7:10–12
4. God is the author of both good fortune and ill, 7:13–14
5. Both self-righteousness and immorality lead to disaster, 7:15–18
6. Wisdom has surpassing power, but sin is universal, 7:19–20
7. Be heedless of base malice toward yourself, 7:21–22
8. Man’s quest for wisdom cannot by itself attain profound spiritual truth, 7:23–25
9. A wicked woman is the worst of evils a man can encounter, 7:26
10. But all human beings, male and female have fallen from original goodness, 7:27–29
C. Coming to terms with an imperfect world, 8:1–17
1. The wise man reverences the authority of the government, 8:1–5
2. Divine law operates in our life despite woes and wrongs and inevitable death, 8:6–9
3. Though esteemed and unpunished, the wicked will finally be judged by God, 8:10–13
4. Injustices in this life falsely encourage a shallow hedonism, 8:14–15
5. But God’s ways are inscrutable to human wisdom, 8:16–17
IV. Fourth discourse: God will deal with the injustices of this life, 9:1–12:8
A. Death inevitable to all; make the best use of this life, 9:1–18
1. Death is inevitable to both the good and the evil: moral insanity grips them all, 9:1–3
2. Moral choice and the knowledge of this life are cut off at death, 9:4–6
3. Let the godly use to the full life’s opportunities and blessings, 9:7–10
4. Even to the worthy, success is uncertain and life span unpredictable, 9:11–12
5. Wisdom, though unappreciated, succeeds much better than force, 9:13–18
B. The uncertainties of life and the baneful effects of folly, 10:1–20
1. Even a little folly can ruin a man’s life; be prudent before princes, 10:1–4
2. Life provides reversals in fortune and strokes of retribution, 10:5–11
3. A fool is marked by his empty talk and misdirected effort, 10:12–15
4. The welfare of nations and men depends on accepting responsibility, 10:16–19
5. Contempt of authority brings sure retribution, 10:20
C. How best to invest a life, 11:1–12:8
1. Kindness returns with blessings to the benefactor, 11:1–2
2. Man’s wisdom cannot change or fathom God’s laws of nature, 11:3–5
3. The wisest course is lifelong diligence and cheerful industry, 11:6–8
4. A youth misspent in pleasure brings later retribution, 11:9–10
5. Start living for God while young, before afflictions and senility come upon you, 12:1–8
V. Conclusion: life in the light of eternity, 12:9–14
A. Solomon’s purpose was to teach his people wisely about life, 12:9–10
B. These trenchant admonitions are of more practical value than all literature, 12:11–12
C. Put God’s will first, for His judgment is final, 12:13–14
Lincoln City 6/2/18
By Richard S. Adams 6/16/2018
I suppose Lily and I are like many others in that, as often as we can, we make the ninety-minute drive to Lincoln City. Visiting family and friends from California, Texas and Washington often come here with us. Pictures document our many trips and places in our heart. There is something special about the smell of the sea, the feel of the ocean spray and the sand that clings to your shoes as if asking you to stay. Surely all of us would love to live here.
This afternoon we could see a large circle of people, young and old, gathered close together. Lily and I speculated what these thirty or forty people were doing, but as we passed them the smell and mist of the ocean were momentarily interrupted by rose petals. The delicate feel and scent lasted briefly. It was gone, just like the sandcastles we build on the beach, in our minds and in our hearts.
I suppose the presence of little children as well as adults and elderly meant this was a loved family member. I can imagine the children’s questions, but I wonder, even now, at the answers they were given.
Did this person know the Lord? What about those left behind? I admit having your ashes scattered in the ocean is not an unpleasant thought, especially where the ocean meets the land. In the somewhat windy beach air the brief interruption of rose petals on our skin and its rose fragrance was sweet. It touched something within us, a feeling difficult to describe, difficult to hold on to, but special.
Now, a couple of weeks later, I find that experience still comes to mind when I am quiet. We can only speculate on the effect our life has on others, but as I consider that thought I realize that kind of thinking is vanity.
It is enough to live the best we can and pray God will enable us to love God with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind and with all our strength, because we cannot do it without God’s enabling. Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that God has made everything beautiful in its time and he has put eternity in our hearts. Revelation 4:11 tells us that God created all things and by God’s will all things exist. So then, we are here for God’s good pleasure.
I hope this person is a sweet fragrance to God. I love the beach, but to be with the Lord is far better.
The Continual Burnt Offering (Matthew 26:38-39)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
June 18Matthew 26:38–39 (ESV) 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” ESV
The utter resignation of Jesus to the Father’s will shines out in all these closing experiences, but particularly in that of Gethsemane. While the horror of becoming the great sin offering, being made sin for us, overwhelmed His human soul and spirit, yet He was perfectly subject to the divine will, and had no thought of turning aside. There are depths here that our minds can never fathom, but all is perfection on His part. If He could have contemplated all that was involved in the sacrifice of the cross with equanimity, He would not have been the perfect man that He was. But knowing it all and realizing there was no other way by which He could become the captain of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10), He faced the ordeal unflinchingly in order that God might be glorified, and sinful men saved.
It was not in Gethsemane, but on Calvary, that the sin question was settled and atonement made for iniquity. But the agony in the garden was a fitting prelude to the darkness of the cross. In order to make an adequate redemption for our sins, it was necessary that the Substitute be a man, but more than man; otherwise His sacrifice could not have been of sufficient value to be a ransom for all. He must be a man on whom death and judgment had no claim; therefore one who had been tested and proved to be absolutely sinless—one who had never violated God’s holy law in thought or word or deed. But this very sinlessness of Jesus explains the suffering He endured in the contemplation of being made sin on our behalf.
Hark! what sounds of bitter weeping.
From yon lonesome garden sweep!
‘Tis the Lord His vigil keeping.
Whilst His followers sink in sleep.
Ah, my soul, He loved thee,
Yes, He gave Himself for me.
--- J. J. Hopkins
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
1/1/2012 | The Beginning at the End
Of all the prayers in the Bible, there is one I am drawn to more often than any other. It is perhaps the shortest prayer in the Bible and is found at the end of the book of Revelation, where the Apostle John prays, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20). This little prayer is one we can pray not only on bad days in the midst of life’s trials and sorrows but on good days in the midst of life’s joys and celebrations. It is a prayer motivated by our passion to see our Lord face to face — that He would consummate His kingdom and His marriage to His Bride, bring us into the promised land of the new heavens and earth, wipe every tear from our eyes, put death to death, and make us unable to sin ever again and ever able to worship and rejoice always and forever.
Our prayer for Jesus’ return isn’t foremost a prayer for the end of the world but a prayer for the culmination of world history. In fact, Jesus’ return isn’t really the end but the beginning — the beginning of life as it was meant to be. It is not just life forever as we know it but an entirely new way of life with no possibility of sin and no threat of death — life that is not merely an escape from the grave, nor merely a return to the garden, but our transformation and our transferal into glory in the joyful presence of Jesus. This is the unimaginable, glorious promise of Scripture from beginning to end — from the first gospel promise of victory in Genesis 3:15 to the promise of the angels at Jesus’ ascension in Acts 1:11.
The book of Revelation is the book of John’s apocalypse (his vision or revelation of Jesus Christ), and although we perhaps first think of angels, animals, lampstands, creatures, beasts, rewards, and tribulations when we think of the book of Revelation, we would do well to think first of the perfect, slain, risen, and victorious Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, so that we might fall down before his face, coram Deo, and sing together with the twenty-four elders: “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:9–10).
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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 War of 1812 began on this day, June 18th. The British had captured American ships and enslaved sailors. They incited Indians to capture Fort Mims, massacring 500 men, women and children. They captured the Capitol, burnt the White House, bombarded Fort McHenry and attacked New Orleans. Outraged, many volunteered for the Army, including Davy Crockett. In his declaration of war, President James Madison stated: “I… exhort all the… people of the United States… as they feel the wrongs… forced on them… [to] consult the best means under… Divine Providence of abridging its calamities.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
God - the John Doe of philosophy and religion.
--- Elbert Hubbard
The Notebook of Elbert Hubbard: Mottos, epigrams, short essays, passages, orphic sayings and preachments : coined from a life of love, laughter and work
For the most part, the people we serve in our congregations don’t look like Josephs, Esthers, or Davids, nor do we; but the same God who glorified himself in the lives of ‘ordinary people’ in ancient days will glorify himself in our lives today if we will trust him.
--- Warren Wiersbe
10 Power Principles for Christian Service
What does this conception of the law reveal? Evidently this: the law has become separated from God and has become man’s real authority. It no longer leads to a meeting with God, but rather frustrates it. Correspondingly man has retreated behind his deeds and achievements - as well as behind his guilt. God is concealed behind the law and man behind his achievements and works. Law and performance are the two sides of the protecting wall, behind which man takes up his own position and asserts himself before God.
--- G. Bornkamm
Jesus of Nazareth
Listening can be a greater service than speaking. Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he, who can no longer listen to his brother, will soon be no longer listening to God, either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God, too. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life and in the end there is nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words.
--- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
... from here, there and everywhere
When we come to the Scriptures as a part of our conscious strategy to cooperate with God for the full redemption of our life, we must desire that his revealed will should be true for us. Next, we should begin with those parts of Scripture with which we have some familiarity, such as Psalm 23, the Lord’s Prayer, the Sermon on the Mount, 1 Corinthians 13 or Romans 8.
You may think that this is not a big beginning. But keep in mind that your aim is not to become a scholar or to impress others with your knowledge of the Bible—a dreadful trap for so many fellowships aiming to be biblical. That aim will only cultivate pride and lay a foundation for the petty, quarrelsome spirit so regrettably, yet so commonly, observed in those outwardly identified as the most serious students of the Scriptures.
It may help to remember these words of Thomas à Kempis:
"Of what use is it to discourse learnedly on the Trinity, if you lack humility and therefore displease the Trinity? Lofty words do not make a man just or holy; but a good life makes him dear to God. I would far rather feel contrition than be able to define it. If you knew the whole Bible by heart, and all the teachings of the philosophers, how would this help you without the grace and love of God?" The Imitation of Christ (Dover Thrift Editions)
Your aim must be only to nourish your soul on God’s word to you. Go first to those parts of the Bible you already know, therefore, and count on your later growth and study to lead you to other parts that will be useful.
Do not try to read a great deal at once. As Madame Guyon wisely counsels, “If you read quickly, it will benefit you little. You will be like a bee that merely skims the surface of a flower. Instead, in this new way of reading with prayer, you must become as the bee who penetrates into the depths of the flower. You plunge deeply within to remove its deepest nectar.” Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ (Library of Spiritual Classics, Volume 2)
You may have been told that it is good to read the Bible through every year and that you can ensure this will happen by reading so many verses per day from the Old and New Testaments. If you do this you may enjoy the reputation of one who reads the Bible through each year, and you may congratulate yourself on it. But will you become more like Christ and more filled with the life of God? It is a proven fact that many who read the Bible in this way, as if they were taking medicine or exercising on a schedule, do not advance spiritually. It is better in one year to have ten good verses transferred into the substance of our lives than to have every word of the Bible flash before our eyes. Remember that “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor 3:6). We read to open ourselves to the Spirit.
Come to your chosen passage as to a place where you will have a holy meeting with God. Read a small part of the passage and dwell on it, praying for the assistance of God’s Spirit in bringing fully before your mind and into your life the realities expressed.
Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God
Isaac Watts, pub.ca. 1721
Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follow’r of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His name?
Must I be carried to the skies
On flow’ry beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To help me on to God?
Sure I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord;
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.
Thy saints in all this glorious war
Shall conquer, though they die;
They see the triumph from afar,
By faith’s discerning eye.
When that illustrious day shall rise,
And all Thy armies shine
In robes of vict’ry through the skies,
The glory shall be Thine.
PART II / The Second Verse
Maimonides on “You Shall Love”
The average man or woman is expected to observe all the actional commandments—the Halakha—in all their details. Performing these prescribed actions, in addition to comprehending the otherwise profound philosophical ideas concerning God presented in a simple manner by the Torah, is enough to give this average person the wherewithal to conduct his or her life in an orderly, moral, and civilized manner and with an awareness of the basic ideas that characterize Judaism. The mitzvot will guide such a person onto the right path, consistent with his or her intellectual capacity. The elite, however, whose curiosity and intellectual ability raise them above the rest of their peers, are expected to strive for a far higher standard, beyond the limits set by the Torah for the others. Indeed, such a person must aspire to understand the most refined conceptions of the Deity and His attributes. (12)
(12) The elite, however, must continue to abide by the actional commandments along with ordinary people; their higher aspirations and deeper understanding are not a dispensation to do away with the obligations that devolve upon all other Jews. Everything in the life and writings of Maimonides rejects the notion, sometimes proposed, that the elite are beyond the law.
In Sefer ha-Mitzvot, which—as its very name indicates—deals with an enumeration of the commandments, Maimonides is writing for “ordinary” Jews who wish to observe what is required of them and what is within their ability to understand. The very mitzvot that connect such people to the service of God—the behavioral commandments together with the Torah’s summary of God’s major attributes—constitute the source of their love for God. And to the extent that their ability permits, they may also draw inspiration from Nature and its reflection of the imponderable wisdom of the Creator. (13) But their primary source for religious inspiration remains—the commandments and, of course, the Torah of which they form a part.
(13) The study of Nature (which is the prerequisite for the intuitive reactions of love and fear, as mentioned above) is far less esoteric than philosophical speculation. The Talmud requires one who is capable of studying geometry and astronomy to do so, and “one who knows how to calculate the cycles and planetary courses but does not do so, of him Scripture says,” citing Isa. 5:12, “but they regard not the work of the Lord, nor have they considered the work of His hands” (Shabbat 75a). We find no direct talmudic encouragement of the study of philosophy as such. Maimonides (who asserts that his interpretation of a talmudic text is warrant for his view on the study of metaphysics; see below) raises philosophy to the highest rung in the religious life, higher than that of the natural sciences. Thus, after introducing chapter 2 of the “Laws of the Foundations of the Torah” by stating the source of love and fear, Maimonides undertakes to teach the reader about matter and form, the angels, the nature of divine knowledge, divine unity, etc. All this, he says (2:11) is included in the term maaseh merkavah, the highly esoteric study of Ezekiel’s “divine chariot.” The next two chapters deal with astronomy and physics. “All these matters are only a drop in the bucket and deep, but not as profound as [the matters taken up in] the first two chapters.” The latter two chapters are referred to as maaseh bereshit, literally, the acts of genesis, which, while they are not popular fare, are not as recondite and restricted as is the study of maaseh merkavah (4:10, 11). Hence, the study of Nature is available, even required, of those who have the talent for it, but not for all others, while the study of philosophy is clearly reserved for those who have both the aptitude and the spiritual preparation for it. See too R. Isaac Simḥa Hurewitz, Yad Levi (Commentary to Maimonides’ Sefer ha-Mitzvot), Shoresh 1, no. 40 (Jerusalem: n.p., 1927), pp. 18a, b.
However, the Mishneh Torah seems to contradict our thesis. As Maimonides’ principal halakhic work, it is meant for all Jews equally. Hence here he ought to restrict his discussion of the source of love solely to Torah and mitzvot, omitting the contemplation of the cosmos, which requires a capacity for metaphysical speculation. Yet in two places in this work that Maimonides does discuss love and fear, the context suggests that he is addressing only an elite segment of the people, not all of them.
And so, in the “Laws of the Foundations of the Torah,” although his stated goal is to impart, in non-technical terms and in a manner accessible to the layman, the theological foundations of Judaism, we see that the subject matter, though simplified for the masses, remains intrinsically so difficult and so conceptually demanding that even in its simplified form it constitutes a formidable intellectual challenge. Maimonides acknowledges this fact when he maintains that this material is a key to understanding the divine governance of the universe and that it forms the essential content of the maaseh merkavah—the exegesis of Ezekiel’s vision of the divine chariot, which the Sages declared an esoteric study, in contrast to halakhic discourse, which they deemed accessible to all, “young and old, men and women.” It is therefore logical that Maimonides identifies the contemplation of Nature as inspiring the intuition that leads to both love and fear. Indeed, since the context of these first chapters of the “Laws of the Foundations of the Torah” concerns matters scientific and metaphysical, it stands to reason that Maimonides focuses here on Nature as the source of love and fear of God rather than the commandments and the Torah. (17)
(17) See the commentary to Maimonides’ Sefer ha-Mitzvot by R. Ḥananiah b. Menaḥem, Kin’at Soferim (Livorno: n.p., 1740), Positive Commandment 3.
Now let us turn to a passage in Hilkhot Teshuvah, the “Laws of Repentance,” where the context shows that Maimonides is here using an alternative definition of fear—the conventional as opposed to his more sophisticated version as presented at the beginning of the “Laws of the Foundations of the Torah.” Chapter 10 of the “Laws of Repentance” is devoted to the distinction between those who observe the law for its own sake and those who do so for ulterior motives—such as the desire for reward or the fear of punishment. The latter—which includes “the ignorant, women, and children”—act out of fear, which, of course, is a lower form of religious devotion, whereas the former do so out of love:
What is the proper kind of love?—when one loves God with very powerful, great, and overflowing love such that his soul is bound up in the love for God, and he finds himself constantly thinking about it as if he were love-sick [for a woman] such that his mind is never distracted from loving and thinking about her constantly, whether sitting or standing, whether eating or drinking. (Hilkhot Teshuvah, 10:3)
It is well known that the love for the Holy One does not become bound up with the heart of man until he thinks about it constantly and properly and abandons everything in the world except for it; as we were commanded, “with all your heart and with all your soul.” One loves the Holy One only with the mind, thus knowing Him; for love is in accordance with knowledge: if little [knowledge] then little [love], if much [knowledge] then much [love]. Therefore must a person dedicate himself to understand and comprehend the [branches of] wisdom and learning that inform him about his Creator according to his capacity to understand and attain. (Ibid., 10:6))
This form of love goes beyond fear as the latter was described in the “Laws of the Foundations of the Torah”; it operates on a higher level—and, thus, only comes to a person who is prepared “to understand and comprehend the [branches] of wisdom and learning,” Maimonides’ terms for natural science and metaphysical thinking.
And, of course, in the Guide, his often esoteric philosophical magnum opus, we expect to find a description of a higher standard intended for the elite, which we most certainly do. So the apparent contradiction within Maimonides’ thought dissolves under close scrutiny.
The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
Thanks to Meir Yona
The Murder Of Aristobulus And Hyrcanus, The High Priests, As Also Of Mariamne The Queen.
1. However, fortune was avenged on Herod in his external great successes, by raising him up domestical troubles; and he began to have wild disorders in his family, on account of his wife, of whom he was so very fond. For when he came to the government, he sent away her whom he had before married when he was a private person, and who was born at Jerusalem, whose name was Doris, and married Mariamne, the daughter of Alexander, the son of Aristobulus; on whose account disturbances arose in his family, and that in part very soon, but chiefly after his return from Rome. For, first of all, he expelled Antipater the son of Doris, for the sake of his sons by Mariamne, out of the city, and permitted him to come thither at no other times than at the festivals. After this he slew his wife's grandfather, Hyrcanus, when he was returned out of Parthin to him, under this pretense, that he suspected him of plotting against him. Now this Hyrcanus had been carried captive to Barzapharnes, when he overran Syria; but those of his own country beyond Euphrates were desirous he would stay with them, and this out of the commiseration they had for his condition; and had he complied with their desires, when they exhorted him not to go over the river to Herod, he had not perished: but the marriage of his granddaughter [to Herod] was his temptation; for as he relied upon him, and was over-fond of his own country, he came back to it. Herod's provocation was this,—not that Hyrcanus made any attempt to gain the kingdom, but that it was fitter for him to be their king than for Herod.
2. Now of the five children which Herod had by Mariamne, two of them were daughters, and three were sons; and the youngest of these sons was educated at Rome, and there died; but the two eldest he treated as those of royal blood, on account of the nobility of their mother, and because they were not born till he was king. But then what was stronger than all this was the love that he bare to Mariamne, and which inflamed him every day to a great degree, and so far conspired with the other motives, that he felt no other troubles, on account of her he loved so entirely. But Mariamne's hatred to him was not inferior to his love to her. She had indeed but too just a cause of indignation from what he had done, while her boldness proceeded from his affection to her; so she openly reproached him with what he had done to her grandfather Hyrcanus, and to her brother Aristobulus; for he had not spared this Aristobulus, though he were but a child; for when he had given him the high priesthood at the age of seventeen, he slew him quickly after he had conferred that dignity upon him; but when Aristobulus had put on the holy vestments, and had approached to the altar at a festival, the multitude, in great crowds, fell into tears; whereupon the child was sent by night to Jericho, and was there dipped by the Galls, at Herod's command, in a pool till he was drowned.
3. For these reasons Mariamne reproached Herod, and his sister and mother, after a most contumelious manner, while he was dumb on account of his affection for her; yet had the women great indignation at her, and raised a calumny against her, that she was false to his bed; which thing they thought most likely to move Herod to anger. They also contrived to have many other circumstances believed, in order to make the thing more credible, and accused her of having sent her picture into Egypt to Antony, and that her lust was so extravagant, as to have thus showed herself, though she was absent, to a man that ran mad after women, and to a man that had it in his power to use violence to her. This charge fell like a thunderbolt upon Herod, and put him into disorder; and that especially, because his love to her occasioned him to be jealous, and because he considered with himself that Cleopatra was a shrewd woman, and that on her account Lysanias the king was taken off, as well as Malichus the Arabian; for his fear did not only extend to the dissolving of his marriage, but to the danger of his life.
4. When therefore he was about to take a journey abroad, he committed his wife to Joseph, his sister Salome's husband, as to one who would be faithful to him, and bare him good-will on account of their kindred; he also gave him a secret injunction, that if Antony slew him, he should slay her. But Joseph, without any ill design, and only in order to demonstrate the king's love to his wife, how he could not bear to think of being separated from her, even by death itself, discovered this grand secret to her; upon which, when Herod was come back, and as they talked together, and he confirmed his love to her by many oaths, and assured her that he had never such an affection for any other woman as he had for her—"Yes," says she, "thou didst, to be sure, demonstrate thy love to me by the injunctions thou gavest Joseph, when thou commandedst him to kill me."
5. When he heard that this grand secret was discovered, he was like a distracted man, and said that Joseph would never have disclosed that injunction of his, unless he had debauched her. His passion also made him stark mad, and leaping out of his bed, he ran about the palace after a wild manner; at which time his sister Salome took the opportunity also to blast her reputation, and confirmed his suspicion about Joseph; whereupon, out of his ungovernable jealousy and rage, he commanded both of them to be slain immediately; but as soon as ever his passion was over, he repented of what he had done, and as soon as his anger was worn off, his affections were kindled again. And indeed the flame of his desires for her was so ardent, that he could not think she was dead, but would appear, under his disorders, to speak to her as if she were still alive, till he were better instructed by time, when his grief and trouble, now she was dead, appeared as great as his affection had been for her while she was living.
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
if you try to save him from it, you make things worse.
20 Listen to advice, and accept discipline,
so that in the end you will be wise.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Don’t think now, take the road
And Peter … walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid.
--- Matthew 14:29–30.
The wind was actually boisterous, the waves were actually high, but Peter did not see them at first. He did not reckon with them, he simply recognized his Lord, and stepped out in recognition of Him and walked on the water. Then he began to reckon with the actual things, and down he went instantly. Why could not our Lord have enabled him to walk at the bottom of the waves as well as on the top of them? Neither could be done saving by recognition of the Lord Jesus.
We step right out on God over some things, then self-consideration enters in and down we go. If you are recognizing your Lord, you have no business with where He engineers your circumstances. The actual things are, but immediately you look at them you are overwhelmed, you cannot recognize Jesus, and the rebuke comes: “Wherefore didst thou doubt?” Let actual circumstances be what they may, keep recognizing Jesus, maintain complete reliance on Him.
If you debate for a second when God has spoken, it is all up. Never begin to say—‘Well, I wonder if He did speak?’ Be reckless immediately, fling it all out on Him. You do not know when His voice will come, but whenever the realization of God comes in the faintest way imaginable, recklessly abandon. It is only by abandon that you recognize Him. You will only realize His voice more clearly by recklessness.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
To A Young Poet
For the first twenty years you are still growing
Bodily that is: as a poet, of course,
You are not born yet. It's the next ten
You cut your teeth on to emerge smirking
For your brash courtship of the muse.
You will take seriously those first affairs
With young poems, but no attachments
Formed then but come to shame you,
When love has changed to a grave service
Of a cold queen.
From forty on
You learn from the sharp cuts and jags
Of poems that have come to pieces
In your crude hands how to assemble
With more skill the arbitrary parts
Of ode or sonnet, while time fosters
A new impulse to conceal your wounds
From her and from a bold public,
Given to pry.
You are old now
As years reckon, but in that slower
World of the poet you are just coming
To sad manhood, knowing the smile
On her proud face is not for you.
BIBLE TEXT / Genesis 6:1–2 - When men began to increase on earth and daughters were born to them, the divine beings saw how beautiful the daughters of men were and took wives from among those that pleased them.
MIDRASH TEXT / Genesis Rabbah 26, 4 / When men began. Rabbi Simon said, “In three places it uses this language [הֵחֵל/hey-ḥale, “began”] to indicate rebellion, ‘It was then that men began to invoke the Lord by name’
(Genesis 4:26); ‘When men began to increase’ (6:1); and ‘Cush also begot Nimrod, who began to be the first man of might on earth’ ” (10:8, authors’ translation). An objection was raised: Is it not written “[If, as one people with one language for all,] this is how they have begun to act …”? He [Rabbi Simon] said to them, “He [God] smacked Nimrod on the head and said to them [the generation of the tower of Babel], ‘He is the one who incited them against me!’ ”
To increase on earth. They used to spill their seed on the trees and stones, and because they were steeped in lust, He gave them many women, as it is written, “When men began to increase on earth and daughters were born to them.”
The wife of Rabbi Shimon son of Rabbi bore a daughter. Rabbi Ḥiyya the Great saw him. He said to him, “The Holy One, praised is He, has began in bless you!” He [Rabbi Shimon] said to him, “From where do you know this?” He said, “As it is written, ‘When men began to increase on the earth and daughters were born to them.’ ” He [Rabbi Shimon] went to his father, who said to him, “Did the Babylonian [Rabbi Ḥiyya] offer you congratulations?” He [Rabbi Shimon] said, “Yes and this is what he said …” He [Rabbi] said to him, “Even though there is a need for wine and a need for vinegar, the need for wine is greater than that for vinegar. There is a need for wheat and a need for barley; the need for wheat is greater than that for barley. When a man marries off his daughter and incurs a lot of expenses, he says to her, ‘May there not be for you [a reason to] return here!’ ”
CONTEXT / The Hebrew word הֵחֵל/hey-ḥale means “to begin.” Based upon its use in three contexts, the Rabbis see it as meaning not just “to start” but “to rebel—by beginning to deviate from precedent.” Humankind “began to rebel” by engaging in three types of sins: idolatry (referring to their idols as God); sexual immorality (through wanton promiscuity); and violence (Nimrod—whose name contains the same letters as the word מֶרֶד/mered, “rebellion”—is seen as a hunter and a man of war).
The phrase “to increase” implies sexual activity. The words “on earth” are interpreted literally; men were ejaculating onto the ground. This sentence provided the Rabbis with the opportunity to state that at this early moment in history, men were sexually out of control. Their desires and lust were unchecked and led them to seek release and gratification at any time and in any place. The Bible then speaks of the “daughters of men” who were taken as wives. The Midrash understands this as the “remedy” to the “disease.” Women and marriage will help to channel male sexuality into a positive, socially accepted path.
This is followed by two stories that open the discussion to the relative merits of men and women, or more precisely, boys and girls. The wife of Rabbi Shimon (son of “Rabbi,” Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi) gives birth to a girl. Rabbi Ḥiyya congratulates the father on having a daughter and tells him that now God has begun to bless him. (Note that the idea of “beginnings” ties back to the first paragraph of the Midrash!) However, Rabbi Shimon’s father, Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi, isn’t as enthusiastic as Rabbi Ḥiyya (“the Babylonian,” from his birthplace) about the worth of girls. In his pointed analogy, Rabbi grudgingly accepts the necessity of females, but likens them to vinegar, or barley, as opposed to the more desired wine or wheat. Daughters, apparently for economic reasons among others, were viewed as a burden by many men. (The cost of rearing a daughter and marrying her off was great. And then, her work potential was transferred from her own family to her husband’s.)
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
W. W. Wiersbe
"Expecting the day of the Lord
"Joel’s message to Judah (and to us) is reaching its conclusion. He has described the immediate “Day of the Lord,” the terrible plague of the locusts. This led to a description of the imminent “Day of the Lord,” the impending invasion of the northern army. All that remains is for him to describe the ultimate “Day of the Lord” when God will judge all the nations of the earth. “For the Day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen” (Obad. 15).
"Joel describes a sequence of events relating to this “great and terrible Day of the Lord” (Joel 2:31), what will happen before that day, during that day, and after that day.
"1. Before That Day: the Spirit Poured Out (Joel 2:28–32)
In the Hebrew Scriptures, these five verses form chapter 3 of Joel’s prophecy; and chapter 4 in the Hebrew Scriptures is chapter 3 in the English Bible. The Jewish scholars who arranged the Old Testament Scriptures evidently thought that this paragraph was important enough to warrant a chapter by itself. However, now that we have a completed Bible, this important passage must be studied both in its Jewish context and in the context of the New Testament church.
The Jewish context. The “afterward” in 2:28 refers to the events described in 2:18–27 when the Lord heals the nation after the Assyrian invasion. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean immediately afterward, for many centuries passed before the Spirit was poured out. When Peter quoted this verse in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit led him to interpret “afterward” to mean “in the last days”
“The last days” began with the ministry of Christ on earth (Heb. 1:2) and will conclude with “the Day of the Lord,” that period of worldwide judgment that is also called “the Tribulation” (Matt. 24:21, 29) and “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7). Many students of prophecy think that this special time is detailed in Revelation 6–19, climaxing with the return of Christ to earth to deliver Israel and establish His kingdom (Isa. 2:2–5; Zech. 12–14; Rev. 19:11–20:6). (Note that the phrase “a thousand years” is used six times in Revelation 20:1–7. The Latin word for “thousand years” is millennium; it is used to describe the kingdom Jesus Christ will establish on earth in fulfillment of the Old Testament promises to Israel. However, some students prefer to “spiritualize” these promises and apply them to the church today, and these people are called amillennialists, meaning “no millennium.” Premillennialists are Christians who believe Jesus will return before the kingdom is established, for how can you have a kingdom without the King? There was a time when a postmillennial interpretation was popular: the church would “change the world” and “bring in the kingdom,” and then Jesus would return to reign. The wars and atrocities of this past century and the spread of apostasy in the church have pretty well done away with this optimistic outlook.)
Joel promised that before the “Day of the Lord” begins, there will be a remarkable outpouring of the Holy Spirit accompanied by signs in the heavens and on the earth. During the Old Testament era, the Holy Spirit was given only to special people who had special jobs to do, like Moses and the prophets (Num. 11:17), the judges (Jud. 3:10; 6:34; 11:29), and great men like David (1 Sam. 16:13). But the promise God gave through Joel declared that the Spirit will come upon “all flesh,” which includes men and women, young and old, Jew and Gentile. “And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved”
(Joel 2:32, NKJV; see Acts 2:39).
The church context. In Acts 2, Peter did not say that Joel’s prophecy was being fulfilled. He said that the same Holy Spirit Joel wrote about (“this is that”) had now come and was empowering the believers to praise God in various languages understood by the Jews who were assembled in Jerusalem from many parts of the Roman Empire
(Act 2:5–12). In his prophecy, Joel promised “wonders in the heavens, and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.… The sun … turned into darkness, and the moon into blood” (Joel 2:30–31), but there is no record that any of these things occurred at Pentecost. The miracle that fascinated the crowd was the miracle of the tongues, not remarkable signs of nature. (Some say that the darkening of the sun from noon until three o’clock (Matt. 27:45) and the local earthquake (vv. 51–54) fulfilled Joel’s promise, but Matthew doesn’t say so. Invariably, when something happened that fulfilled Scripture, Matthew calls it to our attention (26:24, 56; 27:9, 35). At least twelve times in his Gospel, Matthew uses the word “fulfilled” to point to an Old Testament messianic prophecy, but he doesn’t include
Furthermore, Joel’s promise included a much wider audience than the one Peter addressed at Pentecost. Peter’s audience was made up of men (Acts 2:22, 29) who were either Jews or Gentile proselytes to Judaism (v. 11). The Gentiles didn’t enter into the blessing of the Spirit until Cornelius and his family and friends were converted
(Acts 10–11). Peter used Joel’s prophecy to declare that the promised Spirit had come and this was why the believers, men and women (1:14), were praising God in such an ecstatic manner. Peter was answering the accusastion that the believers were drunk (2:13–16) and backing up his defense from the Scriptures. (In Scripture, you sometimes find “near” and “distant” fulfillments of God’s promises. The “near” fulfillment is partial, while the “distant” fulfillment is complete. In 2 Samuel 7, God promised to build David a house. The near fulfillment was the Davidic dynasty that ruled until Judah was exiled to Babylon. The distant fulfillment is found in Jesus Christ, the Son of David, whose reign shall never end (Luke 1:32–33).)
When it comes to Israel, “the last days” (or “latter times”) will involve both tribulation and exaltation
(Isa. 2:1–5; Micah 4:1–5), a time of trouble followed by a time of triumph and glory. As far as the church is concerned, “the last days” involve “perilous times” of satanic opposition in the world and apostasy in the church (1 Tim. 4:1–5; 2 Tim. 3:1–8; 2 Peter 3:1–9; 1 John 2:18–23; Jude 18–19). Many Christians believe that during those trying “last days,” the Lord will send a great moving of his Spirit, and many sinners will turn to the Savior before the awful “Day of the Lord” is ushered in.
Certainly the church today needs a new filling of the Spirit of God. Apart from the ministry of the Spirit, believers can’t witness with power (Acts 1:8), understand the Scriptures
(John 16:13), glorify Christ (v. 14), pray in the will of God
(Rom. 8:26–27), or develop Christian character
(Gal. 5:22–23). We need to be praying for revival, a deeper working of the Spirit in His people, leading to confession of sin, repentance, forgiveness, and unity.
Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship (The BE Series Commentary)
Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
In his critique of Bousset, Moore acknowledged that critical use of the rabbinic writings is difficult, but he argued that the critical problems presented by the Pseudepigrapha are no less difficult: “How wide, for example, was the currency of these writings? Do they represent a certain common type of ‘Volksfrömmigkeit,’ or did they circulate in circles with peculiar notions and tendencies of their own? How far do they come from sects regarded by the mass of their countrymen as heretical?” (Moore 1921: 244). Perhaps the most fundamental question to be asked about the use of the Pseudepigrapha in the reconstruction of ancient Judaism is whether they are in fact Jewish at all. Most of these texts were preserved by Christians, not by Jews. Robert Kraft has argued repeatedly that these texts should first be understood in their Christian context (Kraft 1994; 2001). At the same time, it is incontrovertible that some pseudepigraphic writings which were preserved only by Christians were composed by Jews in the centuries around the turn of the era. Fragments of most sections of 1 Enoch, and of Jubilees were found in Aramaic and Hebrew, respectively, among the Dead Sea Scrolls. It does not necessarily follow that all pseudepigrapha attributed to Old Testament figures are of Jewish origin. Since most Christian literature refers explicitly to Christ, and Christians often added references to Christ to Jewish writings, the tendency has been to assume that any Old Testament pseudepigraphon that has nothing explicitly Christian in it is in fact Jewish.
This tendency has recently been challenged by James Davila (2005). We have a considerable corpus of writings from antiquity that are indisputably Jewish, because of their language or the context of their discovery (most notably, the Dead Sea Scrolls). On the basis of these texts Davila attempts to identify “signature features” that can reliably indicate the Jewish origin of a work:
• substantial Jewish content, and evidence of a pre-
• compelling evidence that a work was translated from
• sympathetic concern with the Jewish ritual cult;
• sympathetic concern with Jewish Law/Torah and
• concern with Jewish ethnic and national interests
(Davila 2005: 65)
These “signature features” are not necessarily foolproof, but they can help establish a balance of probability. They enable Davila to authenticate as Jewish a work like 2 Baruch, which was clearly written by a Torah-observant Jew, against the objections of Rivkah Nir (2003), who argues that several of its apocalyptic motifs are typical of Christianity rather than Judaism (Davila 2005: 131). He rightly argues that Nir’s concept of ancient Judaism is “narrow to the point of being procrustean,” as she does not even include works like 1 Enoch and Jubilees in her control corpus of Jewish material. He also defends the Jewish origin of the Similitudes of Enoch (1 Enoch 37–71), which shows no interest in Torah observance, and which was regarded as a late Christian work by J. T. Milik (1976: 89–98). In this case the conclusive consideration is the apparent identification of Enoch, not Jesus, with the Son of Man in 1 Enoch 71:14 (Davila 2005: 134). The identification, though, is not as unambiguous as Davila claims (Collins 1998: 187–91), but it is inconceivable that a Christian author would have allowed any ambiguity as to the identification of the Son of Man. Other cases are more difficult to decide. The Jewish origin of Joseph and Aseneth has been questioned forcefully by Ross Kraemer (1998). Davila fails to detect either Jewish or Christian signature features that would decide the issue (Davila 2005:193). Neither does the Testament of Job offer any decisive evidence, although it fits quite comfortably in the context provided by the oldest attestation, in Christian circles in Egypt in the early fifth century C.E. He also finds the Testament of Abraham congenial to a late antique Christian setting. Less plausibly, he finds nothing in the Wisdom of Solomon “that prohibits or even renders unlikely its having been written by a gentile Christian in the second half of the first century CE” (Davila 2005: 225). But there is no parallel for Christian composition of a pseudepigraphic writing in the name of an Old Testament figure at such an early date, and the retelling of the exodus story in Wisdom of Solomon 11–19 surely meets the criterion of concern for Jewish ethnic and national interests. Davila’s reasoning is not persuasive in every instance, but he has advanced the discussion by showing that the evidence for Jewish origin is much clearer in some instances than in others.
There is plenty of evidence that Christians sometimes composed works in the names of Old Testament figures (e.g., Isaiah, Ezra, Elijah, Daniel). It is also plausible that they inserted explicit Christian passages into Jewish works to render them more suitable for Christian devotion (see, e.g., Harlow 1996 on 3 Baruch; Collins in Charlesworth 1983: 330–53 on Sibylline Oracles 1 and 2). The more extensive the Christian redaction, the more hazardous the reconstruction of the underlying Jewish work becomes. The most celebrated problem case in this regard is the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. This collection is clearly Christian in its present form. One of its distinctive features is the expectation of a messiah from Levi and Judah, who is evidently identified as Christ. He will be priest and king, God and man (T. Sim. 7:2). He is referred to as “the lamb of God” (T. Jos. 19:6). Testament of Judah 24 speaks of a man from the tribe of Judah, for whom the heavens will be opened and in whom no sin will be found. Scholars have argued that each of these references can be justified in a Jewish context, or that they are Christian insertions in a text that is basically Jewish (Charles 1913: 291). The cumulative evidence, however, is far more easily explained on the assumption of Christian authorship (de Jonge 1953).
Nonetheless, there are good reasons to think that the Testaments draw heavily on Jewish traditions. The association of the messiah with both Levi and Judah inevitably recalls the two messiahs of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Partial parallels to the Testament of Levi, in Aramaic, and to the Testament of Naphtali, in Hebrew, have been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is possible, however, that these were source documents used by the Christian authors of the Testaments (de Jonge 2000). We do not have conclusive evidence for a Jewish Testaments of Twelve Patriarchs (as distinct from apocryphal writings associated with individuals such as Levi). The ethical teachings of the Testaments can be explained satisfactorily in the context of either Hellenistic Judaism or early Christianity.
In cases where the Christian elements are not extensive, and somewhat incongruous, a stronger case can be made for Jewish authorship. The fifth Sibylline Oracle contains only one overtly Christian verse (arguably two) in a composition of 531 verses. Verse 257 qualifies the “exceptional man from the sky” with the line “who stretched out his hands on the fruitful wood.” The following verse says that he will one day cause the sun to stand. Most commentators excise either one or both verses as an interpolation (Collins in Charlesworth 1983: 399). The reference to causing the sun to stand could be regarded as part of the interpolation because of a play on Jesus/Joshua). Davila allows that this is possible, but finds it unnecessary: “Sibylline Oracles 5 as a whole reads comfortably as a work by a Jewish-Christian who was outraged by the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and who put after-the-fact prophecies in the mouth of the Sibyl both to condemn the Romans and the other polytheistic nations and to predict the coming of Jesus as the eschatological redeemer” (Davila 2005:189). But while the outrage over the destruction is loud and clear in this work, the identification of Jesus as the eschatological redeemer is perceptible only in this one passage, and is not very explicit even there. Davila notes that Sibylline Oracles 5 shows no interest in circumcision, dietary laws, or the Sabbath, and virtually reduces the Law to idolatry and sexual sins. But this is quite typical of Jewish writings from the Hellenistic Diaspora (Collins 2000: 155–85). As this example shows, the identification of a given text as Jewish depends on the profile of Judaism one is willing to accept. In some cases, arguments against Jewish provenance reflect a narrow, normative view of Judaism (Efron 1987: 219–86 on the Psalms of Solomon; Nir on 2 Baruch). This is not true of Davila, however, and the questions may be justified in some cases. The boundaries of Judaism cannot be restricted to concern for the Torah or covenantal nomism. Conversely, arguments for Jewish diversity based on pseudepigraphic texts of uncertain origin cannot bear the full weight of evidence unless they are supported by parallels in texts that are clearly Jewish.
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
--- Matthew 26:56.
Judged by any human standard, the life of Christ had proved a misadventure and a mistake.
(Sermons Preached in St Paul's Cathedral)
Amid the Hosannas of an admiring throng, he entered the Holy City, the acknowledged King of Israel. Then came the end. The populace turned against him. His own disciples deserted him. He was left alone—amidst the insults of the judgment hall, in the agonies of the Cross. Could any failure be more complete?
Failure is inevitable. Success is not the rule of human life. It is the rare exception. The path of life is strewn with the corpses of magnificent projects and brilliant hopes crushed and trampled under foot.
If failure is inevitable, how can we turn it to account? What are its special uses?
Failure is a discipline. As a test of strength and as a test of faith alike it is without a rival.
[Have you] felt enthusiasm burning in your heart? You tried and failed, and your faith deserted you. You felt that you were left alone; you did not feel that the Father was with you. You appropriated the one-half of Christ’s experience, the sense of failure; you did not appropriate the other and the essential half, the persistence of faith. There was in you then, there is in you now, if you will only believe it, a power that can defy failure, a power that must be victorious, because it is a power of God and not of your own.
The life of Christ was the most stunning failure, followed by the most stunning triumph that the world has ever seen.
This is the example of all examples. God’s purpose cannot fail. Whatever is honest, whatever is lovely, whatever is pure, whatever is truthful has vitality that no time can obliterate and no antagonism can subdue. Believe this and no failure will be a failure to you. It will only be a triumph deferred. The pains that you have spent in reclaiming that poor outcast are not thrown away, though you see no immediate fruits. The seeds of morality and goodness that you have sown in that wayward child are not lost, though the soil seems hard and barren now. You may not live to see it. Your life may be pronounced a failure. Dare to face this possibility. But your work cannot die. Think of Christ, your Master. Trust God, who is one, and not the world because it is many. “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).
--- J. B. Lightfoot
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Heretic or Heroic? June 18
Thomas Kyme kicked his wife, Anne Askew, out of the house when she became a Protestant. The loss of home, husband, and two children was only the beginning of sorrows, for she soon faced trial for denying the doctrine of the Mass—that the bread and wine change into the body and blood of Christ. “Thou foolish woman,” said her accuser, “sayest thou that priests cannot make the body of Christ?”
“I say so, my Lord. I have read that God made man; but that man can make God, I never yet read, nor, I suppose, shall ever read. That which you call your God is a piece of bread; for proof thereof let it lie in a box three months, and it will be moldy.”
She was taken to the Tower of London. “Then they did put me on the rack … a long time; and because I lay still and did not cry, my Lord Chancellor and Master Rich took pains to rack me with their own hands, till I was nigh dead.” Despite being so crippled that she could never walk again, she refused to recant. “I sent word,” she said, “that I would rather die than break my faith.” Anne then composed this prayer:
O Lord! I have more enemies now than hairs on my head; yet Lord, let them never overcome me with vain words, but fight Thou, Lord, in my stead; for on Thee I cast my care. With all the spite they can imagine, they fall upon me, who am Thy poor creature. Yet, sweet Lord, I heartily desire of Thee, that Thou wilt of Thy merciful goodness forgive them that violence they do. Open also their blind hearts, that they may hereafter do that thing in Thy sight which is only acceptable before Thee. So be it, Lord.
On June 18, 1546, she was officially condemned. A month later she was carried to Smithfield, chained to the stake, and burned as a heretic. Others, however, like John Foxe thought her heroic, “leaving behind a singular example of Christian constancy for all men to follow.”
Even my bones are in pain,
While all day long my enemies sneer and ask,
“Where is your God?”
Why am I discouraged? Why am I restless?
I trust you! And I will praise you again
Because you help me, and you are my God.
--- Psalm 42:10,11.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - June 18
“Thy Redeemer.” --- Isaiah 54:5.
Jesus, the Redeemer, is altogether ours and ours for ever. All the offices of Christ are held on our behalf. He is king for us, priest for us, and prophet for us. Whenever we read a new title of the Redeemer, let us appropriate him as ours under that name as much as under any other. The shepherd’s staff, the father’s rod, the captain’s sword, the priest’s mitre, the prince’s sceptre, the prophet’s mantle, all are ours. Jesus hath no dignity which he will not employ for our exaltation, and no prerogative which he will not exercise for our defence. His fulness of Godhead is our unfailing, inexhaustible treasure-house.
His manhood also, which he took upon him for us, is ours in all its perfection. To us our gracious Lord communicates the spotless virtue of a stainless character; to us he gives the meritorious efficacy of a devoted life; on us he bestows the reward procured by obedient submission and incessant service. He makes the unsullied garment of his life our covering beauty; the glittering virtues of his character our ornaments and jewels; and the superhuman meekness of his death our boast and glory. He bequeaths us his manger, from which to learn how God came down to man; and his Cross to teach us how man may go up to God. All his thoughts, emotions, actions, utterances, miracles, and intercessions, were for us. He trod the road of sorrow on our behalf, and hath made over to us as his heavenly legacy the full results of all the labours of his life. He is now as much ours as heretofore; and he blushes not to acknowledge himself “our Lord Jesus Christ,” though he is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords. Christ everywhere and every way is our Christ, for ever and ever most richly to enjoy. O my soul, by the power of the Holy Spirit! call him this Morning, “thy Redeemer.”
Evening - June 18
“I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse.” --- Song of Solomon 5:1.
The heart of the believer is Christ’s garden. He bought it with his precious blood, and he enters it and claims it as his own. A garden implies separation. It is not the open common; it is not a wilderness; it is walled around, or hedged in. Would that we could see the wall of separation between the church and the world made broader and stronger. It makes one sad to hear Christians saying, “Well, there is no harm in this; there is no harm in that,” thus getting as near to the world as possible. Grace is at a low ebb in that soul which can even raise the question of how far it may go in worldly conformity. A garden is a place of beauty, it far surpasses the wild uncultivated lands. The genuine Christian must seek to be more excellent in his life than the best moralist, because Christ’s garden ought to produce the best flowers in all the world. Even the best is poor compared with Christ’s deservings; let us not put him off with withering and dwarf plants. The rarest, richest, choicest lilies and roses ought to bloom in the place which Jesus calls his own. The garden is a place of growth. The saints are not to remain undeveloped, always mere buds and blossoms. We should grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Growth should be rapid where Jesus is the Husbandman, and the Holy Spirit the dew from above. A garden is a place of retirement. So the Lord Jesus Christ would have us reserve our souls as a place in which he can manifest himself, as he doth not unto the world. O that Christians were more retired, that they kept their hearts more closely shut up for Christ! We often worry and trouble ourselves, like Martha, with much serving, so that we have not the room for Christ that Mary had, and do not sit at his feet as we should. The Lord grant the sweet showers of his grace to water his garden this day.
Morning and Evening
Words and Music by Jack P. Scholfield, 1882–1972
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Romans 10:13)
Indulgence says, “Drink your way out.”
Philosophy says, “Think your way out.”
Science says, “Invent your way out.”
Industry says, “Work your way out.”
Communism says, “Strike your way out.”
Militarism says, “Fight your way out.”
Christ says, “I AM THE WAY OUT!”
We commonly use many terms to describe a Christian—“saved,” “born again,” “justified.” Although these words are important to us who understand and appreciate them, they can sometimes be confusing and misunderstood by anyone who is unfamiliar with a biblical vocabulary. To people who are seeking, we must always be ready to explain these terms in language that is relevant to them. A personal encounter with Christ is much more important than the terminology we use to describe this salvation experience.
We must emphasize that it is Christ and Christ alone who saves—not the methods, procedures, or manipulations often used for those seeking salvation. No two experiences of salvation are necessarily alike. Coming to Jesus to experience His love and forgiveness is a very personal matter—not a prescribed procedure. Although simple enough for a child to understand and respond to, calling on the name of the Lord to be saved is much more than lips that merely speak glibly about Jesus. There must also be the evidence of a changed, committed life.
The author and composer of this hymn, Jack Scholfield, was a singing evangelist. He wrote “Saved, Saved!” in 1911 while assisting in evangelistic meetings. He explained, “The melody just came to me, almost as a gift. Then I simply tried to make the words fit the tune. It was popular from the start.”
I’ve found a Friend who is all to me; his love is ever true; I love to tell how He lifted me and what His grace can do for you.
He saves me from ev’ry sin and harm, secures my soul each day; I’m leaning strong on His mighty arm—I know He’ll guide me all the way.
When poor and needy and all alone, in love He said to me, “Come unto Me and I’ll lead you home to live with me eternally.”
Chorus: Saved by His pow’r divine, saved to new life sublime! Life now is sweet and my joy is complete, for I’m saved, saved, saved!
For Today: John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Titus 3:3–7; Hebrews 9:12; 1 John 4:10.
Seek to explain the simple plan of salvation to someone. Sing as you go ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. LIX. — THERE is that of Isaiah i. 19., “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the fat of the land:” — ‘Where, (according to the judgment of the Diatribe,) if there be no liberty of the will, it would have been more consistent, had it been said, If I will, if I will not.’
The answer to this may be plainly found in what has been said before. Moreover, what consistency would there then have been, had it been said, ‘If I will, ye shall eat the fat of the land?’ Does the Diatribe from its so highly exalted wisdom imagine, that the fat of the land can be eaten contrary to the will of God? Or, that it is a rare and new thing, that we do not receive of the fat of the land but by the will of God.
So also, that of Isaiah xxx. 21. “If ye will inquire, inquire ye: return, come.” — “To what purpose is it (saith the Diatribe) to exhort those who are not in any degree in their own power? It is just like saying to one bound in chains, Move thyself to this place.” —
Nay, I reply, to what purpose is it to cite passages which of themselves prove nothing, and which, by the appendage of your conclusion, that is, by the perversion of their sense, ascribe all unto “Free-will,” when a certain endeavour only was to be ascribed unto it, and to be proved?
- “The same may be said (you observe) concerning that of Isaiah xlv. 20. “Assemble yourselves and come.” “Turn ye unto me and ye shall be saved.” And that also of Isaiah lii. 1-2. “Awake! awake!” “shake thyself from the dust,” “loose the bands of thy neck.” And that of Jeremiah xv. 19. “If thou wilt turn, then will I turn thee; and if thou shalt separate the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as My mouth.” And Malachi more evidently still, indicates the endeavour of “Free-will” and the grace that is prepared for him who endeavours, “Turn ye unto Me, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the Lord.’ (Mal. iii. 7.).
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
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