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“There is no superscription to this Psalm. There is no indication of its authorship, of the period at which it was written, or of the circumstances to which it refers. There are many of these anonymous hymns in God’s Book, nameless utterances, voices of the night of weeping, shouts from the mountain tops of thought, prayers unto the God of Life, which belong to no individual, can be fathered on no solitary period, but descend as an heirloom to successive ages, and enrich every generation. As the circumstances, the victories, the shortcomings, and the possibilities of man are continually being repeated, so the religious experiences of the Church do often reappear in its history, and we may receive the inspired utterances of them in one age as almost equally appropriate to the sorrows and joys of another age.”—Dr. H. R. Reynolds.
“This Psalm, as may be easily apprehended, is a prayer of all the pious children of God, and of spiritual people, against all their persecutors, so that it may be used by all pious godly people from the beginning till the end of the world.”—Luther.
A CRY FOR JUDGMENT
I. The complaint of the Church.
“Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked triumph?” &c. (Psalms 94:3-7). The poet complains to the Lord of the enemies of the Church, and names mention of—
1. Their general character. “The wicked … the workers of iniquity.” They are depraved in character, and diabolic in conduct. “Mark the terrible energy implied in the designation, ‘workers of iniquity.’ Reference is not made to men who make a pastime of iniquity, or who occasionally commit themselves to its service, but to those who toil at it as a business. As the merchant man is industrious in commerce, as the philosopher is assiduous in study, as the artist is indefatigable in elaboration, so those slaves of iniquity toil in their diabolic pursuits with an ardour which the most powerful remonstrance seldom abates. They are always ready to serve their master.”—Parker.
2. Their arrogant triumph (Psalms 94:3-4.) “How long shall the wicked triumph? They belch out, they speak arrogant things; all the workers of iniquity carry themselves proudly.”—Perowne’s trans. In the first line of Psalms 94:4, the two verbs have one noun as the object—they pour forth hard, or, proud speeches. The enemies of the people of God were triumphant over them, and were proud and insolent in their triumph. It is not seldom that the wicked in their prosperity and power have arrogantly lorded it over the righteous. Prosperity, apart from Divine grace, engenders presumption, and fancied self-sufficiency, and self-boasting.
3. Their oppression and cruelty (Psalms 94:5-6.) The word which in the A.V. is translated, “they break in pieces,” Perowne and Hengstenberg translate, “they crush.” The wicked oppressed the people and heritage of the Lord. How frequently was this the case in the history of the chosen people! How frequently has it been so in the history of the Christian Church! The Psalmist complains of cruelty as well as oppression. “They slay the widow,” &c. “The widow and the fatherless are mentioned, as often, as particular instances of those whose misery ought to excite compassion, but whose defencelessness makes them the easy prey of the wicked.”—Perowne. This is invariably represented in Scripture as a crime of great enormity, and especially abhorrent to God. See Exodus 22:21-24.
4. Their practical Atheism. “Yet they say the Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it.” “The Divine names,” says Alexander, “are, as usual, significant. That the self-existent and eternal God should not see, is a palpable absurdity; and scarcely less so, that the God of Israel should suffer His own people to be slaughtered without even observing it.” We need not suppose that they uttered this blasphemy in words, but it was expressed in their conduct. Their atheism was not theoretical, but practical. This practical atheism is very prevalent and pernicious at the present time. Immense numbers utter “the Apostles’ Creed” regularly, who exclude God from almost every province of their life. In the formation of their plans, in the management of their business, in their relations to society, &c. God is not in all their thoughts.
II. The appeal of the Church. “O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth,” &c., (Psalms 94:1-3). Let it be noted at once and closely that the appeal is for justice, not for revenge. “I do not think that we sufficiently attend to the distinction that exists between revenge and vengeance. ‘Revenge,’ says Dr. Johnson, ‘is an act of passion, vengeance of justice, injuries are revenged, crimes avenged.’ … The call which the Psalmist here makes on God, as a God to whom vengeance belongeth, is no other than if he had said, ‘O God, to whom justice belongeth!’ Vengeance indeed is not for man, because with man’s failings and propensities it would ever degenerate into revenge. ‘I will be even with him,’ says nature; ‘I will be above him,’ says grace!”—Bouchier.
1. Judgment is the prerogative of God alone. “O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth.” The two names of the Divine Being which the Psalmist uses, El and Jehovah, recognise God as almighty, self-existent, and alone entitled to take vengeance. Literally it is, “God of vengeances,” the plural indicating that there is in God a fulness of vengeance for His persecuted people; and the repetition of the appeal denotes the earnestness with which it is made. “To Me belongeth vengeance and recompense.” “Avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” The vindication of His people and the punishment of their enemies is His sole prerogative. He will render righteous judgment to the wicked. He alone has the right to do so.
2. Judgment is sometimes apparently long delayed. “Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked triumph?” The persecution seems to the Psalmist to have been of long continuance. He would fain know when it would end. Our time of suffering and trial always seems long and wearisome. In the night of weeping and waiting, wearily drag the hours, and we cry, “How long?” In due season God will appear, &c.
3. Judgment is earnestly invoked. Here is a cry for the manifestation of God. “Show Thyself.” Margin, as in Heb., “Shine forth.” It is an appeal to God to manifest Himself as a God of righteous retributions. Here is a cry for the judgment of God. “Lift up Thyself, thou judge,” &c. God is conceived as sitting at ease, and entreated to arise and execute judgment, and to give a just recompense to those enemies of His people who, having got the upper hand, exulted proudly over them. Here is a cry for His speedy interposition, “Lord, how long? “&c.
CONCLUSION.—Deep in the heart of man is the sense of justice, the conviction that there is a judge of all the earth who will do right. Oppressed humanity in all ages and in all lands has cried to heaven for judgment. That cry will certainly, sooner or later, meet with a full response.
“The sun of justice may withdraw his beams
A while from earthy ken, and sit concealed
In dark recess, pavilioned round with clouds:
Yet let not guilt presumptuous rear her crest,
Nor virtue droop despondent: soon these clouds,
Seeming eclipse, will brighten into day,
And in majestic splendour He will rise,
With healing and with terror on His wings.”
THE FOLLY OF PRACTICAL ATHEISM
The Psalmist addresses not the theoretical, but practical atheists. He speaks to men who acknowledged the existence of God, and His creatorship, and His government of the world; but who thought that He did not see and would not recompense their conduct. This is the atheism which is the most prevalent and perilous in the present day. The folly of such atheists is seen—
I. In supposing that God does not observe their conduct. “He that planted the ear, shall He not hear? He that formed the eye, shall He not see?” The principle upon which this interrogation is based is this, that an effect cannot be greater than its cause. The picture with the beauty of which we are charmed is not greater than the conceptive and executive power of the artist who produced it. He saw it mentally long before we saw it visually. “This argument,” says R. Watson, “is as easy as it is conclusive, obliging all who acknowledge a first cause, to admit His perfect intelligence, or to take refuge in atheism itself. It fetches not the proof from a distance, but refers us to our bosoms for the constant demonstration that the Lord is a God of knowledge, and that by Him actions are weighed.” And Tillotson: “We find in ourselves such qualities as thought and intelligence, power and freedom, &c., for which we have the evidence of consciousness as much as for our own existence. Indeed, it is only by our consciousness of these, that our existence is known to ourselves. We know, likewise, that these are perfections, and that to have them is better than to be without them. We find also that they have not been in us from eternity. They must, therefore, have had a beginning, and consequently some cause. Now this cause, as it must be superior to its effect, must have those perfections in a superior degree; and if it be the First Cause, it must have them in an infinite or unlimited degree, since bounds or limitations, without a limiter, would be an effect without a cause.” If we see and hear and know, then God does so in a much greater, indeed, in an infinite degree. His knowledge is clear and distinct, ours is dim and confused; His is intimate and thorough, ours is partial and superficial; His is universal and infallible, ours uncertain and limited. “The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man.” How foolish, then, to imagine that God does not hear the arrogant speech, or see the oppressive deed, or note the wickedness of men!
II. In supposing that God will not recompense their conduct. “He that chastiseth the heathen, shall not He correct?” “There is,” says Perowne, “a change in the argument. Before it was from the physical constitution of man; now it is from the moral government of the world.” The idea seems to be that even the heathen are governed by God. He has revealed to them by means of creation “His eternal power and Godhead;” His law He has “written in their hearts; their conscience also bears witness” for Him. They are subject to His control. He visits them in mercy; and He reproves them with judgment. Is it not folly then to suppose that He will overlook the injuries inflicted upon His own people by those who have a clearer and fuller revelation than the heathen? Every additional illustration of the judgment of God imparts increased force to the already conclusive evidence, that God will correct those who break His law and oppress His people.
The Psalmist mentions two things which considerably strengthen his argument.
1. That the evil complained of was of long continuance. “Ye fools, when will ye be wise?” The inquiry implies that their folly had existed for a long period. During that period they had been “treasuring up unto themselves wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” If they repent not, that accumulated wrath will surely burst upon them.
2. That God knows not only words and actions, but thoughts and purposes also. “The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity.” He has set “our secret sins in the light of His countenance.” The thoughts that He would not see and judge for these sins He knew. All thoughts of arrogance and oppression He knew. Let them not imagine that He did “not see” or “regard” their conduct; for even their hearts were known unto Him. “Thoughts are words to God, and vain thoughts are provocations.”
1. Here is warning to practical atheists. You are acting as though God had nothing to do with some departments of your life and conduct. You do things in business, or in politics, or in pleasure, which will not bear His scrutiny. You say in practice, “The Lord shall not see, neither shall God regard it.” But He does see; and “know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.” Your practical atheism is utter folly.
2. Here is encouragement to the oppressed righteous. You cannot pass beyond the region of God’s knowledge. He is acquainted with all your afflictions. His love and power are as great as His knowledge. He will sustain you in all your afflictions; and when He ariseth for judgment He will triumphantly vindicate you.
THE BLESSEDNESS OF THE DIVINELY-INSTRUCTED MAN
The Psalmist, having complained of the enemies of the Church and appealed to God for judgment, and having warned the enemies of the folly of their conduct, proceeds in these verses to speak of the blessedness of the people of God, even in the midst of the oppressions to which they were subjected. “Blessed is the man,” &c. The good man is here represented as blessed,—
I. Because of the instruction which he receives. “Blessed is the man whom Thou chastenest, O Lord, &c.” (Psalms 94:12-13). The word which is here rendered “chastenest” does not mean to afflict or punish; but to instruct, to admonish, &c. Perowne renders it, “instructest;” and Hengstenberg, “admonishest.” He says, “Those who allow themselves to be admonished and taught by the Lord stand in opposition to the foolish among the people, who go to school with the blind ungodly heathen.”
1. The Teacher. “Thou instructest, O Lord.” As a Teacher, the Lord is incomparable, supreme, perfect.
(1) In the extent of His attainments. All things are known to Him. His resources are inexhaustible. “His understanding is infinite.”
(2) In His method of instruction. His knowledge of each pupil is perfect. He knows the faculties, capacities, attainments, &c., of each one; and adapts His communications and methods of instruction to each one. The Lord is an infallible, perfect Teacher.
2. The Text-book. “Out of Thy law.” By means of His Word, God teaches His people the great principles of His government. “The law appears here,” says Hengstenberg, “as the means which God uses in this instruction, the fountain out of which He draws it, and then satisfies with it by His Spirit the thirsty soul. It comes into notice in connection with its doctrine of recompense, and its rich consolatory promises for the people of the Lord, whose end is always salvation.” The Word of God is the best expositor of His Providence.
3. The end of the instruction. “That Thou mayest give him rest,” &c. Perowne, as we think, expounds truly: “This is the end of God’s teaching, that His servant may wait in patience, unmoved by, safe FROM THE DAYS OF EVIL (comp. Psalms 49:5), seeing the evil all round him lifting itself up, but seeing also the secret, mysterious retribution, slowly but surely accomplishing itself. In this sense the ‘rest’ is the rest of a calm, self-possessed spirit, as Isaiah 7:4; Isaiah 30:15; Isaiah 32:17.” The Divinely-instructed man has such views of the Divine administration as inspire him with confidence and calmness, even when the wicked arrogantly triumph over him. God has taught him out of His law that the pit is being digged, into which, if he repent not, the wicked will fall and perish. So the good man has inward rest in the midst of outward affliction and persecution. He is not the creature, but the conqueror of circumstances. His enemies may oppress him, but they cannot invade his peace, &c.
II. Because of the faithfulness of God. “For the Lord will not cast off His people,” &c. The Divinely-instructed man is in covenant relation with God, by virtue of which he is both secure and blessed. He is blessed, for God will never forsake him. “The Lord may perhaps forsake His people for a time (comp. Judges 6:13; Isaiah 2:6), as a righteous punishment for forsaking Him, Deuteronomy 32:15, but not forever.”—Hengstenberg. The righteous are God’s “inheritance,” and He will not give up His title to it, nor suffer it to be wrested from Him. “For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee,” &c., Isaiah 54:7-8. Blessed, indeed, is the man who has the assurance that whatever may befall him, God will not forsake him. Being sure of his interest in God, he will want no good thing.
III. Because of the righteousness of His judgments. “But judgment shall return unto righteousness,” &c. There are times when judgment seems turned aside from righteousness, such as, when the wicked triumph and the good are oppressed. But at the proper time these apparent perversions will be seen in their true light, and righteousness will be seen to be supreme. Even in appearance, judgment and justice cannot always fail. It must sooner or later appear in its true character as perfect righteousness. In the judgment of the great day this manifestation of the righteousness of the Divine rule will be on a grand scale. This manifestation of the righteousness of God’s judgments will be viewed with satisfaction by the righteous. “All the upright in heart shall follow it.” They will approve of it, avow their attachment to it. They will rejoice in it. They shall follow it with joyous hearts and triumphant songs.
CONCLUSION.—Blessed, indeed, is the Divinely-instructed man; for he has rest in the midst of trouble, an everlasting interest in God, and a glorious prospect in the judgment.
A DECLARATION OF CONFIDENCE IN GOD
The Psalmist now applies the general doctrine of the Psalm to his own case, and the result is this clear declaration of sublime trust in God. Here is—
I. Confidence in the midst of formidable enemies. It is an easy matter to declare a triumphant trust when we are free from trial and danger. But the Poet was threatened and afflicted by unscrupulous and powerful enemies when he uttered these trustful and brave words.
1. His enemies were evil in character. “The evil doers, … the workers of iniquity.” See remarks on Psalms 94:4.
2. His enemies were in positions of authority. They occupied “the throne” or judgment seat. They were “not common assassins or thieves, but tyrants who, under a false pretext of justice, oppressed the Church. The throne of the king, the seat of the judge, which is consecrated to God, they stained or defiled with their crimes.”—Perowne. The people of God have often had wicked kings, and corrupt and cruel judges for their enemies.
3. His enemies acted legally. “Which frameth mischief by a law.” They enacted wicked laws, or propounded wicked interpretations of the law. Iniquity is never so daring as when it is supported by the sanctions of law. A thing may be right legally, yet utterly wrong morally, and right morally, yet wrong legally. We have a notable example of this in the life of Daniel (Daniel 6:7).
4. His enemies were confederate in council and action. “They gather themselves together,” &c. The enemies of Daniel afford an illustration, Daniel 6:6; Daniel 6:11; Daniel 6:15. Surely the enemies of the Psalmist were sufficiently formidable to have aroused his fears. Yet he unfalteringly declares his confidence.
II. Confidence in the midst of many and anxious thoughts. The Psalmist speaks of “the multitude of his thoughts within him.” Perowne: “In the multitude of my anxious thoughts within me.” “Anxious thoughts, or ‘perplexities,’ lit. ‘divided or branching thoughts,’ whether doubts or cares.” He was fully alive to the dangers of his position. His thoughts were anxious and perplexed. They were also multitudinous. Luther “He speaks of the many thoughts which one has in such a state of despair, how he could or might come out of it. Then he thinks this way and that way, and visits all holes and corners, but finds none.” Yet faith triumphs over these anxious thoughts. Notwithstanding his deep solicitude, he expresses his firm confidence in God and His Providence. He is anxious, yet victorious.
III. Confidence in the Divine support. “Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul had soon dwelt in silence,” &c. (Psalms 94:17-18). Notice here—
1. The danger, and the need of help.
(1) He was in danger of death. His soul was nearly dwelling in silence. The grave is represented as a place of silence. He was near to “the gates of death.”
(2) He was also in danger of falling. He felt his feet slipping. When the soul is painfully exercised as to the Divine administration of human affairs, there is danger of falling into unbelief and rebellion, or of sinking into despair.
(3) The danger was imminent. His soul was already near to the land of darkness and silence, and his feet were slipping.
2. The failure of human help. “Unless the Lord had been my help,” &c. There are times when human help fails for want of faithfulness; and times when it fails for want of ability. There are experiences in life in which the truest and most devoted of human helpers are powerless to sympathise with or aid us.
3. The sufficiency of the Divine help. The Lord was the Helper of the Psalmist, and His mercy held him up. The help of the Lord was
(1) sufficient. It saved him from falling and from death.
(2) Seasonable. It was afforded when he was near “the silent land,” when his feet were slipping.
(3) Gracious. It was the expression of His mercy. He saves us in His lovingkindness. So the Psalmist proclaims his confidence in God, &c.
IV. Confidence in the Divine protection. “The Lord is my defence; and my God is the Rock of my refuge.” Perowne: “Jehovah hath been a high tower for me.” The Psalmist is confident of—
1. The Security of the Divine Protection. Jehovah was his “high tower.” In Him he would be raised far above the reach of danger. He was “the Rock of his refuge,” in the clefts of which he may safely hide.
2. The Stability of the Divine Protection. “The Rock” is firm, strong, immovable. It stands securely and calmly amid the driving winds, and pelting storms, and surging, thundering seas. The soul that trusts in Jehovah may exult, for she is inviolably and eternally safe.
V. Confidence in the Divine retribution. “Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with Thee?… He shall bring upon them their own iniquity,” &c. Here is a threefold assurance:—
1. God has no fellowship with the wicked. He will have no alliance with injustice, even when it is sanctioned by human laws. He has no complicity with evil. All His arrangements are utterly hostile to it.
2. God will cut of the persistently wicked. “He shall cut them off in their own wickedness,” &c. A terrible retribution awaits the workers of iniquity.
3. God will cut of the persistently wicked by means of their own wickedness. “He shall bring upon them their own iniquity.” “It is an ill work wicked ones are about; they make fetters for their own feet, and build houses for to fall upon their own heads; so mischievous is the nature of sin that it damnifies and destroys the parents of it.”—Greenhill. “A man cannot be more miserable than his own wickedness will make him if God visit it upon him.”—M. Henry.
VI. Confidence in the Lord a source of joy, even in the midst of dangers and anxieties. We have reserved this consideration to the last, because it seems to us the crowning triumph and glory of confidence. Even in the midst of oppression, peril, and multitudinous anxieties, the trust of the Psalmist brought joy to his soul. “Thy comforts delight my soul.” Meditation on the perfections of God, trust in His promises, and the realisation of His presence, are Divine comforts which exceedingly rejoice the soul. “They not only pacify the mind, but they joy it; they do not only satisfy it, but ravish it; they not only quiet, but delight it. They not only take away the present grief, but likewise put in the room and place of it most unspeakable comfort and consolation, as the sun does not only dispel darkness, but likewise brings in a glorious light in the stead of it.”—T. Horton. Thus, by faith in God, the soul is “more than conqueror” over all hostile powers without, and anxious thoughts and fears within. Let us cultivate such faith. For such faith let us pray. “Lord, increase our faith.”
THE SUMMONS TO HOLY WORK
We may regard these words as parallel at least to those of the Judges and Lawgivers of Israel, who when the very existence of Israel as a nation was trembling in the balance, and when devotedness and loyalty were demanded by the circumstances of the case, called with trumpet-voice to the brave and true-hearted among them to be “on the Lord’s side,” and “cursed bitterly” those who would not come “to the help of the Lord against the mighty.”
I. Let us review a few characteristics of the evildoers.
1. Look at the number of the evildoers. Not more than one-seventh of the human race is even nominally Christian; and among these Christians are reckoned all the populations of Austria, France, Russia, America, and Spain; the Greeks, the Copts, and the Armenians; the priest-ridden inhabitants of Brazil and Mexico, and all the crowds of our English cities; the Sabbath-breakers, the despisers of God’s love, the haters of God’s law, the drunkard, the harlot, the miser, the dotard, and the fool.… Turn to the six-sevenths of this world’s population.… We are passing out of Goshen into Egyptian darkness.
2. The variety of the evildoers. In one place there is subtle speculation, in another gross vice; here utter indifference, there wild fanaticism; in one tribe crushing ignorance, in another daring philosophy and luxuriant imagination.… The regiments of the prince of this world wear various uniforms; the mutineers in God’s army are widespread and bear divers colours: they speak a hundred dialects or tongues, and are scattered over the whole world.
3. They are closely organised. There are subtle links of faith that bind the millions of the East, and move them in vast masses. In China … there is abundant organisation, and much coincidence of action. In India, with all the varieties of faith that prevail, there are great and startling signs of combination against God and His Christ.
4. The depravity of these evildoers. It is not the mere ignorance which heathendom reveals which constitutes their chief danger or our main responsibility, but it is the fearful corruption of man under these various forms of Christless, Godless life. In these lands of which we are speaking there is no public opinion against sins of the foulest, most unmentionable kinds.
II. Consider the course which God has taken with these evildoers, and also what is involved in the appeal here uttered. “Who will rise up for Me against the evildoers?” “Who is on the Lord’s side?” By these appeals God seems to tell us that He is not going to crush, or destroy, or convert, or save these evildoers by any fiat of omnipotence, by any touch of His imperial sceptre. His method has always been to teach men by men; to uproot error by truth; to conquer darkness by light; to drive out hatred by love. Nature has unveiled her charms, &c., to men first, and afterwards to nations. God’s greatest acts of revelation have been made through human minds. When He intends to reach the hearts and conquer the wills of men by His love, He calls the sons of men to His help against the mighty. It is not, however, that God is weak and needs our help, but that for infinitely perfect reasons He chooses thus to conquer His enemies, &c. “Who will rise up for Me against the evildoers?” The evildoing is done against Him.
III. Examine the response which is made to this appeal. Nature is ready to rise up for God against the evildoers. Tremendous ocean once heaved from his rocky bed, and in the roaring of his billows said, “I will sweep the accursed race of man from the face of the earth.” … And the lust of rule, the spirit of conquest, the demon of war, have come up before Him. And they have said one to another, “We will go and make inroads on these hoary superstitions; we will bring the civilisation of distant tribes together,” &c. … The enemies of the Lord have fought against each other, and the wrath of man has been made to praise Him. But He needs other and nobler service. Led by Death himself, Cholera, Plague, Famine, and Madness have often risen up against the evildoers.… And now a peaceful group come smiling on, confident in their strength, instinct with hope and promise—they are Science and Commerce, Civilisation and Law.… But powers like these cannot reach the root of the evil. In the Gospel of Christ there is the only stay of human corruption, the only rival to the world’s fascinations, the only power which is merciful to the sinner while it is just to his sin. It is God’s method to overwhelm and subdue the heart of man, to change the evildoer, not by His threats, but by His amnesty—not by the thunder of law, but by the sovereign pleading of love. How shall we obey the summons of the text?—A bridged from “Notes of the Christian Life,” by Dr. Reynolds.
A COMMON INCIDENT OF THE JOURNEY
“My foot slippeth.”
The whole verse is, “When I said, My foot slippeth; Thy mercy, O Lord, held me up.” Here we have one of the simplest forms of prayer, the bare statement of danger. The child’s cry, without introduction or finis. The soul in peril can seldom say much, but that which is said is generally expressive. Take, for example, these words: they imply faith in the presence of One able to help—abhorrence of the sin to which he is tempted—and confidence in His willingness to save.
This experience is a common one. All of us are, at some time, found in slippery places. They are of various kinds, more or less dangerous. There are many things incident to ourselves which render them the more perilous. And we have the same method for preservation the Psalmist enjoyed. Let us notice each of these points.
I. Some slippery places. We are the more exposed to falling when we are brought into circumstances of—
1. Poverty and want. Christ was tempted when He hungered.
2. Of annoyance and vexation. Moses smote the rock in anger.
3. Of dejection and perplexity. Psalms 73:2-3.
4. Of sore bereavement and trial. Job.
II. Some things concerning the traveller, rendering these the more perilous.
1. The absence of the staff, or negligence in its use. Learn the promises and use them.
2. The foot ill-shod.
3. Drowsiness. “Watch and pray, that,” &c.
5. The lantern untrimmed or insecure, so that it goes out or burns dimly.
III. The sure means for preservation. We have simply to cry to the Deliverer. How absurd would it be for a traveller to wait a moment before he cried for help, or took means to extricate himself from peril! Yet some are content merely to cry, “Lead us not into temptation,” when the Sabbath service is performed.
The secret of a secure and blessed life is constant ejaculatory prayer. The moment danger is even anticipated, to ask for timely assistance.—R. A. Griffin.
THE COMFORTS OF CHRISTIANS UNDER EITHER WORLDLY OR SPIRITUAL TRIALS
I. Some of the distressing thoughts which are apt to oppress the mind of a good man. They may be considered as relating to—
1. The state of the world. When a good man surveys the general prevalence of irreligion and impiety, when he considers how few there are, comparatively, who seek after God, or are moved by any impression of a serious nature, he cannot but be affected. “I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved,” &c. (Psalms 119:158; Psalms 119:53). When, again, he considers whither such a course must tend, and in what it will possibly issue, the prospect is still more alarming. “Wide is the gate,” &c. (Matthew 7:13).
2. The state of the Church. The palpable inconsistency between the lives of numerous professors of religion, and the real import of that profession, is the subject of much distressing reflection to the sincere follower of Christ. “Many walk of whom I have told you often,” &c. (Philippians 3:18-19).
3. His state as an individual. “The heart knoweth his own bitterness,” &c. We may advert to—
(1) Trials of a worldly nature. Under these religion neither demands nor boasts a perfect insensibility. The Psalmist displayed great vicissitude of feeling, arising from this quarter; he mourned under the calumny and oppression of his enemies, and gave utterance to cries and tears under his affliction. Psalms 42:9-10. Job is another example.
(2) Trials of a spiritual nature. When we consider our low attainments in religion, compared with our opportunities, our latent corruption, and our frequent miscarriages and failures, we are often tempted to call in question the reality of our religion, and to fear that, after all, we are only “almost Christians.”
Under the hidings of God’s countenance how many painful thoughts arise!
In the prospect before him; in the contemplation of the dangers and temptations which still await him; while he feels himself nothing but frailty and weakness, how apt is he to apprehend some fatal overthrow! He is ready to cry, “I shall never see the King in His beauty, nor behold the land which is so far off.”
II. The consolations of God opposed to these uneasy thoughts.
1. Such as arise from the disordered state of the world. On this subject great consolation springs from the conviction that the Lord reigneth. There sit at the helm infinite power, wisdom, and goodness. They are in perpetual operation; and, in the final result, they will appear with ineffable splendour and beauty.
2. Under painful apprehensions respecting the state of the Church, the comforts of God are neither few nor small. Reflect: it is incomparably more His care than ours. As the Saviour bought it with His blood, He will not fail to guide and govern it in the best manner possible. His interpositions in its favour afford a pledge of what He will still accomplish. Isaiah 43:3-4; Matthew 16:18. Afflictions are designed to purify the Church.
3. Under the distressing thoughts arising from the state of a Christian, as an individual, the Divine comforts are proposed. Affliction and privations are all ordered in infinite wisdom, and proceed from the purest benignity; they will issue in our advantage, and they will be but of short duration. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”—Robert Hall.—Abridged.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 94". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27