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Give ear to my words, O Lord.
The inward and outward sides of the Divine life
The Psalm falls into two main parts-- Psalms 5:1-7, and Psalms 5:8-12. The inward comes first; for communion with God in the secret place of the Most High must precede all walking in His way, and all blessed experience of His protection, with the joy that springs from it. The Psalm is a prayerful meditation on the inexhaustible theme of the contrasted blessedness of the righteous, and misery of the sinner, as shown in the two great halves of life: the inward of communion, and the outward of action. A Psalmist who has grasped the idea that the true sacrifice is prayer, is not likely to have missed the cognate thought that the “house of the Lord, of which he will presently speak, is something other than any material shrine. But to offer sacrifice is not all which he rejoices to resolve. He will “keep watch”; that can only mean that he will be on the outlook for the answer to his prayer, or, if we may retain the allusion to sacrifice, for the downward flash of the Divine fire, which tells his prayer’s acceptance. The confidence and resolve ground themselves on God’s holiness, through which the necessary condition of approach to Him comes to be purity. God’s holiness shuts out the impure. The Psalmist’s vocabulary is full of synonyms for sin, which witness to the profound consciousness of it that law and ritual had evoked in devout hearts. In Psalms 5:7 the Psalmist comes back to the personal reference, contrasting his own access to God with the separation of evil-doers from His presence. But he does not assert that he has the right of entrance because he is pure. The second part may be taken as his prayer when in the temple, whether that be the outward sanctuary or no. The whole of the devout man’s desires for himself are summed up in the prayer for guidance. He breaks into prayer which is also prophecy. We come into the sunshine again at the close of the Psalm, and hear the contrasted prayer, which thrills with gladness and hope. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Prayer to God
This Psalm hath two parts--
1. The prophet prayeth the Lord to hear his prayer; which thing the wicked cannot, or may not hope for.
2. He beseecheth the Lord to direct him, that the enemies might take no advantage of him; whose nature he describeth, praying God to overthrow them; comforting, on the other side, the godly with excellent promises. Verse 1 teacheth that God’s children many times use words in their prayers, many times not. So did Moses, and Anna the mother of Samuel. God’s children should strive to earnestness in prayer, and should pray unto none but to Him alone. Verse 3 teacheth that we should break our sleep in the morning, to the end we might pray unto the Lord. Seeing God cannot away with wickedness, His children should abhor it likewise. In Psalms 5:6 are comprehended judgments against the ungodly, namely, against liars, cruel persons, and deceitful men. We may not appear before God in the trust of our own merits, which indeed we have not, but of His mercies only. Also that with reverence we should repair to the places of God’s service, and reverently also there behave ourselves. Unless God guide us, we shall go out of the way; the strength of our corrupted nature carrying us headlong thereto. Also we should pray for a holy life, and to this end, that the mouths of our enemies may be stopped from evil speech. Verse 9 is a lively description of the qualities of the ungodly: they are inconstant, they imagine mischief, they are given to cruelty and to flattery. It is lawful to pray against the enemies of the Church, that their counsels and desires may be scattered. The faithful may rejoice at the overthrow of God’s enemies. From Psalms 5:12 we learn in what assuredness they are, whom the Lord defendeth; those who repose themselves upon the rock of His almighty protection cannot miscarry. (Thomas Wilcocks.)
David’s state of mind in relation to God and society
I. In relation to God. Here are revealed--
1. His beliefs of God. In His omniscience the Eternal knows our “meditation.” In God’s moral holiness, God’s being is the foundation, God’s will the standard, and God’s influence the fountain, of all moral excellence in the universe. In the administrative rectitude of God. The holy God must punish unrepenting sinners, wherever they are found. There is administrative justice in the universe which will righteously balance the affairs of humanity one day.
2. His feelings towards God. The feeling of personal interest. My King. He felt that the Guardian of the universe was in a high sense his; his Guardian, his Father, and his Friend. A feeling of earnest supplication. And the feeling of practical expectancy. David “looked up” expecting.
3. His purpose in relation to God. He purposed early prayer; orderly prayer; there is a becoming order in worship.
II. In relation to society.
1. He regards all who are his enemies as enemies to God. See in David’s conduct the common mistake of bigots, and the persecuting spirit of bigots.
2. He regards all who were God’s friends as his own. God’s friends should be our friends, His people our people. (Homilist.)
The prayerful and unprayerful
I. The address and manner of prayer (1-3). Uttered words tell not all the heart meditates. These meditations are the groanings which cannot be uttered, but which the Spirit understands (Romans 8:26-27). As soon as we awake at early dawn let Us speak to God, “direct,” set in order, our prayer. We are not to pray without method; and having prayed, look out for the answer (Habakkuk 2:1). We miss many answers, because we get tired of waiting on the Quays for the returning ships.
II. Contrasted characters (4-7). There are here severe expressions for the ungodly. They may not even “sojourn” with God, as a wayfaring man (2 John 1:10). They speak leasing, an old English word for lying. Not in the spirit of boasting, but of humble gratitude does David turn to himself (1 Corinthians 15:10). “Thy holy temple” (Dan 6:10; 1 Samuel 1:9; 1 Samuel 3:3).
III. The prayer (8-12). We may appeal to God’s righteousness to vindicate His righteous ones. Because He is what He is, we may count on Him (2 Chronicles 16:9). How terrible is the description of the ungodly (9), yet it is almost entirely concerned with the sins of the tongue. Wicked men are like sepulchres, fair without, corruption within, and exhaling pestilential vapours. Verse 11. “Trust,” and with it goes joy and love (Deuteronomy 33:23). (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
The oratory gate
This Psalm is a prayer. And while the subject matter is of great interest, the Psalm is peculiar in setting forth the characteristics of prayer in general.
A suggestion of the variety of prayer (Psalms 5:1-2). Prayer is a provision for a universal need, and must therefore be capable of a large variety of adaptations. If a man is to pray without ceasing, he must pray under an endless variety of circumstances. That is prayer which is denoted by the word “meditation”; that which lies in the heart as unexpressed desire or aspiration; which indicates a state or habit of mind quite as much as an act. “Meditation,” says Gurnall, “is prayer in bullion; prayer in the ore--soon melted and run into holy desires.” The soul’s unexpressed aspiration is often more truly prayer than the well-rounded formula. Distinguish between the spirit and the habit of prayer. The spirit can be the result only of the life of God in the soul; the habit of prayer may be the result of education merely. Another variety of prayer is suggested by the word “cry”--the passionate outburst of a soul in distress, or dejection, or danger; throwing out a prayer like a strongly-shot dart, which gives to such prayer the name of “ejaculatory.” “These darts may be shot to heaven without using the tongue’s bow.” Such prayer as this links itself closely with meditation. Verse 2 directs thought to the appropriating power of prayer. God is addressed as “my King,” “my God.” Our Lord’s model of prayer strikes at all unselfishness in our petitions. But it does not exclude the personal element. Verse 3 points out the statedness and decency of prayer. It is well that prayer should be spontaneous; but also well that it should be properly regulated. A rich soil is a good thing; but its richness is no reason why its fruits and grasses should be allowed to grow up in confusion. The suggestion of decency in the act of prayer is furnished by the Word “direct. The original word is used of arranging the wood and the sacrifice upon the altar day by day. Read, “I will pray, setting forth my supplication in order.” In this there is nothing to repress spontaneity or to fetter liberty. It merely teaches that prayer should be decorous and well pondered and marked by an intelligent purpose. We should do well to cover less ground in our prayers, and to ponder their details more carefully. Verse 3 gives another characteristic of prayer--expectancy. “I will watch, or look up.” He who has thoughtfully and reverently set forth his prayer before God, should expect the answer. We are to watch unto prayer--with reference to prayer. Someone has pithily said that the man who does not look after the prayers he has put up, is like the ostrich, which lays her eggs and looks not for her young. Verse 7 gives another characteristic--confidence. The Psalmist speaks as one who has a right to come into God’s house. It is his house because it is God’s. This confidence by no means excludes humble reverence. It is of free grace, of undeserved compassion, of abounding love, that I am permitted to come. And such an approach to God must involve the last element of prayer suggested by the Psalm--joy. On earth, the intercourse of love is often marred by danger; but he who talks with God in His own house, always communes in safety. Thus this Psalm is a great lesson on prayer. (Marvin R. Vincent, D. D.)
The poverty of speech in prayer
“The power of language has been gradually enlarging for a great length of time, and I venture to say that the English language at the present time can express more, and is more subtle, flexible, and at the same time vigorous, than any of which we possess a record.” So writes Richard Jefferies in one of his latest essays. But, notwithstanding all this, he recognises that we have still thoughts and feelings beyond expression. “How many have said of the sea,” he exclaims, it makes me feel something I cannot say. And how much more does this feeling possess us as we commune with Him who made the sea. Words fail to express the thoughts, and thoughts fail to fathom the truth.
Consider my meditation.--
The unspoken part of prayer
And not only must his tongue be listened to, his thought must be interpreted as well. He implores, “Understand my meditation.” This is the old Prayer Book rendering, and seems to come nearest the Hebrew (bin). A parallel passage is, “Thou understandest my thought afar off; for there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, Thou knowest it altogether.” The petition “Understand my meditation” coming after “Give ear unto my words” is deeply suggestive. It implies that there was a voiceless meaning in his prayer which was not only more than he could express, but more than he himself could, even to himself, perfectly explain. In the profoundest prayer not only more is meant than meets the ear, but more is meant than the mind itself can quite decipher. And expansion in Romans 8:1-39 is very wonderful, very touching, and encouraging: “We know not how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the heart knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit.” (B. Gregory, D. D.)
For unto Thee will I pray.
If you “restrain prayer before God”--
1. You act in opposition to your sense and confession of what is right. You know that you ought to pray. How can you repel the charge of inconsistency, when prayer is excluded from your practical system?
2. By neglecting prayer, you resist the authority of God. God has commanded you to pray. Can you venture to treat His command with contempt, and yet hope to prosper? What title have you to expect that, in this particular more than in any other, you can disobey God with impunity?
3. Without prayer vain will be to you all the provisions that are made in the gospel for your deliverance and happiness. The gospel is a dispensation of Divine wisdom and goodness. It proposes to bestow on men the benefits of salvation. But it proposes to bestow them in a certain way, and according to a certain scheme. Do you know any ground for believing that these benefits can ever belong to those who do not pray for them? Lessons:
(1) It becomes us to form and adopt the purpose of the Psalmist. His purpose was to pray; and that purpose should be ours. We have many motives and inducements to engage in this exercise.
(2) It should be with great earnestness that we pray to God. Not going about the duty in a cold, formal, or perfunctory manner.
(3) We are not to pray as if God were unwilling to hear us, and to bestow the blessings which we need. He has revealed Himself as the hearer of prayer.
(4) Do not forget that the God to whom you pray is a holy God. Observe that the Psalmist did not satisfy himself with private prayer; he also resolved to engage in the exercises of public worship. The resolution of the Psalmist should be ours. (A. Thomson D. D.)
The directness of prayer
No priest stands between the worshipper and his Lord. Every man must state his own case. We pray for one another, but not instead of one another. What can be more beautiful than the picture which is thus represented? God is put in His right place as the throned Father, listening to each of His subjects as the subject may feel impelled to address Him. Every word is charged with tremulous life. No man can pray for another in the same exquisite and vital sense as a man can pray for himself; there are always circumstances in the case of the petitioner, which the petitioner alone knows, and even though he cannot throw such circumstances into literal expression he can suggest them all by the very tones of his voice. We mistake the nature of prayer if we think it can be limited to words. Even when we use the words of another in our devotional exercises, we throw into their expression accents which are personal and incommunicable. It is in such tones and accents that the true quality of prayer is found. If prayer consisted only in the utterance of certain words, then the wicked might pray, and pray with great elocutionary effect; but the prayer is hardly in the words at all, it is a subtle fragrance of the soul, an inexpressible something which we understand most nearly by the name of agony. This being the nature of prayer, it follows that whatever priestly mediation there may be in the universe--and that there is such mediation no student of the Bible can deny--the individual himself must stand in a direct relation to God, receiving help from the priest, but not in any degree to obliterate his personality, or reduce his spiritual enjoyment. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)
On the advantages of prayer
Prayer is the pulse of the soul. To be prayerless, or little inclined to pray, is the most dreadful state in which a human being can possibly be. But it is nearly as lamentable to pray under the influence of improper sentiments and feelings, as not to pray at all. It is by no means the province of prayer, to inform the Deity of what we need, or to induce Him to alter His purposes, or to prevail upon Him to bestow upon us whatever we may think fit to solicit from Him. To the omniscient God all our wants must be well known; even better than they are to ourselves. Nor can He be supposed, in consequence of our prayers, either to deviate from the course which He had determined to pursue, or to submit the disposal of His favours to our direction. The advantages of prayer must be considered as confined to ourselves; and we have only to reflect for a moment on the state and temper of mind which it is instrumental in cherishing, to be convinced that it is eminently calculated to promote our real improvement and happiness.
1. Prayer, in consequence of the dispositions which it excites and cherishes in the mind of the suppliant, is well calculated to produce the happiest effects upon his conduct and condition. There is not an error in the understanding, a wrong propensity in the will, or a blemish in the outward conduct, which may not, either directly or indirectly, be traced to a temper of mind, the reverse of that of the Christian suppliant, and which a similar temper to his would not tend either to prevent or remove.
2. Prayer qualifies the suppliant for receiving the enlightening, sanctifying, and comforting influences of the Divine Spirit. That the Spirit of God can communicate direction, energy, and purity to the soul in a secret and incomprehensible manner, cannot be denied. That it is chiefly by means of prayer such communication is made, is a truth, which the experience of every genuine Christian sufficiently corroborates. Prayer is the means God has appointed to be used for obtaining the influences of the Spirit, and for cherishing that frame and temper of mind which peculiarly qualify him for receiving them.
3. Prayer is happily fitted to fortify against temptation Our temptations chiefly arise from the world, and the things of the world. The influence which worldly objects produce upon the different tempers and circumstances of men is so great, that it is not to be described. The best way to counteract this influence, is to avert the mind as much as possible from earthly things, and in the frequent exercise of prayer to lay it open to the impression of things invisible and eternal. Prayer renders us independent of the world, by fixing and strengthening our dependence upon God.
4. Prayer imparts to the Christian such a serenity, strength, and stability, as fit him for all that is truly amiable, and great, and good. It renders him serene, composed, and cheerful. Seeing, then, that prayer is attended with such important and blessed effects, how gladly ought we to avail ourselves of this precious privilege! (J. Somerville, D. D.)
Objections to prayer answered
No argument has ever been adduced against prayer, which may not be traced to the source of human corruption. Men disrelish the duty of prayer, and then the judgment is set at work to devise arguments against it. Some tell us that they see little or no necessity for prayer: that God, who is rich in mercy, will bless them, whether they pray or not. Many are so irregular in the exercise of this duty, that they can scarcely be said to pray at all. They would pray, and they would not. Their hearts are divided. But how can they imagine that God will be served with a divided heart? Others say, for what purpose are we to pray, seeing that our prayers can have no effect upon God to dispose Him to grant us what we need, to alter His purposes, or to ward off from us those dangers by which we are threatened? Why we are to pray for quite another reason; namely, to produce the greatest and most important, and most beneficial effect upon ourselves. The purpose of prayer is answered, when, through the Divine blessing, a holy frame of mind is thereby wrought in us; when we are brought to yield to the impression of spiritual things. Some well-disposed persons allege that they cannot pray. This does not furnish any reasonable objection to prayer. Not to pray at all, because we are unable to pray well, is as absurd as it would be in a child not to walk, because it cannot walk with the elegance and grace of a full-grown man. Such an objection is too likely to arise from indolence, and the want of a real disposition to pray. It is not the manner or language of prayer that renders it acceptable to God, but the temper and dispositions with which it is offered up. If the poor afflicted sinner has right dispositions, he will approach the Lord, though in the most imperfect manner. Some sincere Christians say, they are conscious of so much sin and unworthiness, so much weakness and depravity, in the sight, of God, that they dare not pray. But their forget, the great Intercessor,. standing before the throne, with the golden censer in His hand, and offering up much incense with the prayers of the saints. By this, their fears are dissipated. Another objection to prayer is apt to arise in the minds of true Christians. However earnest and sincere they may have been in the performance of this duty, they have no reason to suppose that an answer to their prayers has ever been vouchsafed. This objection is sometimes made when prayers have been answered, but not in the particular form desired. God may have reasons for delaying or withholding answers. The true suppliant does not immediately cease to urge his suit, when he thinks that he is not heard. God knows both what is good for the Christian, and at what time, and in what manner, it should be granted. Therefore it becomes the Christian, instead of lessening his importunity when he thinks he is not heard, to wait with patience, and a renewed earnestness, till God be pleased to vouchsafe to him a gracious answer. (J. Somerville, D. D.)
On the nature of prayer
Prayer is well defined as an offering up of our desires to God, for things agreeable to His will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of His mercies. Prayer may be considered as a generic term, including adoration, confession, petition, and thanksgiving. All these are equally the result of a devotional temper.
1. The true suppliant is deeply conscious of his being in a state of dependence, weakness, ignorance, and inability to promote his own happiness. Without this, there may be a form of prayer, but nothing of its spirit.
2. The true suppliant comes to God in the firm belief of His existence, and with a confidential application to Him, as both able and willing to help all who put their trust in Him. Without such faith and confidence, there can be no such thing as prayer.
3. The true suppliant draws near to God, with clean hands and a pure heart. In all ages and nations, rites of purification have usually preceded the immediate approaches to Deity. If we “regard iniquity in our hearts, the Lord will not hear us.” But imperfection cleaves in a greater or less degree to the people of God in the present life; and as they are deeply conscious of this being the ease, and as such a consciousness naturally tends to weaken their confidence in God, observe--
4. That the true suppliant draws near to God, through the mediation of His Son, Jesus Christ. “Through Him we have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” Nor is this a recent appointment.
5. The true suppliant, in all his requests at the throne of grace, is regulated by the word and will of God. The desires of mankind are as various as their imaginary wants. The will of God, and not his own will, is the Christian’s guide in devotional duty. Let me remind yon of the glorious privilege of prayer; a privilege so great, that by improving it aright, dependent and sinful creatures like ourselves may lean with confidence on the Rock of Ages Himself. But such prayer as has been delineated is no natural attainment. The sentiments and feelings of the true suppliant are the produce of a Divine principle, specially engendered and nourished by Him who is denominated, “the Spirit of grace and supplications.” (J. Somerville, D. D.)
In the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee.
How go begin every day with God
I. The good work itself that we are to do. To pray. A duty dictated by the light and law of nature, but which the gospel of Christ gives us better instruction in. See how David expresses his pious resolutions.
1. My voice shalt Thou hear. Understand as promising himself a gracious acceptance with God. “Thou wilt hear.” It is the language of his faith, grounded upon God’s promise, that His ear shall be always open to His people’s cry. Wherever God finds a praying heart, He will be found a prayer hearing God. Understand as David’s promising God a constant attendance on Him, in the way He has appointed. God understands the language of the heart, and that is the language in which we must speak to God. We must see to it that God hears from us daily. He expects and requires it. Thus He will keep up His authority over us: and testify His love and compassion towards us. We have something to say to God every day: as to a friend we love, and have freedom with; as to a master we serve, and have business with. Our happiness is bound up in His favour. We have offended Him, and are daily contracting guilt. We have daily work to do for God and our own souls. We are continually in danger. We are dying daily. We are members of that body whereof Christ is the head, and are concerned to approve ourselves living members. Lay all this together, and consider whether you have not something to say to God every day. If you have all this to say to God, what should hinder you from saying it? Let not distance, or fear, hinder you. Let not His knowing what your business is hinder you. Let not any other business hinder our saying what we have to say to God.
II. We must direct our prayer to God. We must with deliberation and design address ourselves to Him. The term “direct” indicates fixedness of thought, and a close application of mind, to the duty of prayer. It speaks the sincerity of our habitual intention in prayer: the steadiness of our actual regard to God in prayer.
III. We must look up. We must look up in our prayers; and after our prayers, with an eye of satisfaction and pleasure; with an eye of observation, what returns God makes to our prayers. Let us be inward with God in every duty, to make heart work of it, or we make nothing of it. The particular time fixed for this good work is the morning. Then we are fresh and lively. Then we are most free from company and business. Then we have received fresh mercies from God, which we are concerned to acknowledge. In the morning we have fresh matter ministered to us for the adoration of the greatness and glory of God. In the morning we are addressing ourselves to the work of the day, and therefore are concerned by prayer to seek unto God for His presence and blessing. (Matthew Henry.)
I. The Christian’s resolution. To pray.
1. Prayer is a duty and a privilege. It implies spiritual life--filial relationship--freedom of access to God. The spirit of prayer must be earnestly cultivated.
2. God is the supreme and immediate object of prayer. “I will direct my prayer unto Thee.” The mediation of priests and saints or of the Virgin Mary superfluous. “Call upon Me in the day of trouble,” etc.
3. Prayer must be definite in its aim. “I will direct, etc. A soul soliloquy is not prayer. Nor is the enumeration of the Divine attributes hid. True prayer is the earnest expression of the deep necessities and longings of the soul in the simplest language possible. The grain of prayer should not be lost in the chaff of vague generalities.
II. The best time for private prayer. “In the morning,” etc.
1. There is a greater freedom from the distracting cares of the family, business, etc.
2. We should seek Divine strength in anticipation of duties, trials, temptations, etc.
3. A day begun with prayer, generally proves a happy day.
4. The most eminent Christians have devoted the early morning to prayer. Mention some.
III. The becoming attitude for a prayerful soul. “I will look up.” Describe watchtower.
1. We should not be satisfied without the conviction that our prayers have been heard by God. Many prayers never reach the goal of the throne of grace.
2. Our prayers should not be forgotten, but an answer looked for. It will he so if our eye be single and our aim definite.
3. Such an attitude prepares us for the recognition of the Divine hand in answer to our prayers. (Homilist.)
The essence of real religion is a filial disposition of heart towards God.
1. Morning is the time for reflection. It seems natural to think, and to be quiet, in the early morning. The very laws of our physical being demand quiet in the morning.
2. Morning is the time for observation. The curtain is drawn aside and we look upon the lace of God’s creation.
3. Morning is the time for purpose. We may begin again, every morning, with fresh purposes, that will be achieved if the strength of God is made perfect in our weakness.
4. Morning is the time for prayer. As the morning gives wings to the day, so prayer gives wings to the morning. Wise reflections will become wiser through the power of prayer, and our purposes will only be binding on the conscience, or wrought out in the life, as prayer gives them their character of sincerity or religiousness. Mornings are monitors, text books, and registers. (W. G. Barrett.)
The protective power of prayer
Among the elegant forms of insect life, there is a little creature known to naturalists, which can gather round it a sufficiency of atmospheric air--and so clothed upon, it descends into the bottom of the pool, and you may see the little diver moving about dry and at his ease, protected by his crystal vesture, though the water all around and above be stagnant and bitter. Prayer is such a protector--a transparent vesture, the world sees it not--but a real defence, it keeps out the world. By means of it, the believer can gather so much of heaven’s atmosphere around him, and with it descend into the putrid depths of this contaminating world, that for a season no evil will touch him; and he knows where to ascend for a new supply. (James Hamilton.)
A battle is every morning fought in every Christian’s closet. The morning is the key of the position. The season of morning prayer is, so to speak, the citadel, the Hougomont, the critical point in each successive day. If he wins those morning minutes, the devil knows he has won that day. (James Hamilton.)
The upward look
It is said that the monks of Mount Athos are accustomed to hypnotise themselves into trance conditions by gazing at their own bodies--no very ennobling objective if true. In some of the Buddhist monasteries of Eastern Asia devotees are pointed out who have sat facing blank walls for twenty or thirty years and have gazed themselves into mysterious ecstasies. In the modernised Buddhism of London and New York theosophy the same virtue is ascribed to intense and sustained contemplation. What change, think you, ought to effect itself within us if with the same steadfastness we contemplate the personality of Him who is the leader and consummator of our faith? (Thomas G. Selby.)
Thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness.
The great matters of religion
If we inquire how it comes to pass that man is fallen under God’s displeasure, the text resolves it all into “wickedness.” This is that which makes all the breach between God and us. This is that which bath wrought all the mischief and disorder that ever hath been in the creation of God from the beginning. This is that which hath so sunk and debased the nature of man, and made it so unlike the Divine nature. Whosoever is in love with evil, cannot be in love with the ways of goodness and righteousness. Whosoever consents to iniquity, does voluntarily part with God, and God leaves him. Atheists make the prosperity of wicked men an argument against Divine Providence. To make a man a wicked person in the sense of Scripture, there must be either gross carelessness and neglect of God and religion: voluntary consent to known iniquity, known hypocrisy, or great apostasy, in matters of doctrine, or in matters of practice. Those that are wicked cannot have to do with God; they stand at a great distance from Him, and are banished from His throne. We best know God by imitation and resemblance of Him. We cannot build upon any report concerning God, which a bad man makes; for if he should speak right of God, he would condemn himself. Goodness, which is God’s perfection, and wickedness, which is man’s acquisition, can no more consist together than light and darkness, health and sickness, soundness and rottenness. Persons of naughty minds have no true thoughts either of God or man. What, then, are the great matters of religion, and what are those things that will consist with it? To reverence and acknowledge the Deity. To live in love, and bear goodwill towards one another. To deal justly, equally, and fairly in all our transactions and dealings each with other. To use moderation and government of ourselves, in the respect of the necessaries and conveniences of this state. The following things are matters of offence, and of the creature’s ruin. Things contrary to the due respect and regard which we ought to bear towards God. Things that are contrary to the general love and goodwill which ought to run through the whole creation of God. Things contrary to that fairness, justice, righteousness, and equal dealing which ought to be among fellow servants, among fellow creatures. Things contrary to the sobriety, chastity, temperance, and due moderation of ourselves Two things concerning repentance.
1. It doth alter the very temper of the sinner.
2. It is a motive with God, and doth affect Him. It doth procure atonement in respect of God. (B. Whichcote, D. D.)
God’s hatred of sin
1. Some of the grounds of that displeasure which God cherishes towards sin. The justice of God must lead Him to view with displeasure that evil and abominable thing. The love--the service which God requires, is love and obedience. To withhold this service is to act unjustly towards Him. The benevolence of God must ever lead Him to regard sin with abhorrence. What is sin but a soul going away from its Maker, from the great Fountain of living waters? As the great Lawgiver of the universe, God must look with deep displeasure on sin. The law is holy, and just and good. When we act in opposition to this law, we, in fact, lift up our testimony against the law. Further, God is the Author of all our mercies, and as such must look with deep displeasure on the workers of iniquity. How great is the debt and obligation under which we are laid to Him by the load of His providential bounty! There has not been a moment of our lives in which the God who made us has not been doing something for us. What must He think of that evil thing which leads to such ingratitude for these blessings? And God must look with displeasure on sin, because it is opposed to all those great schemes, all these grand schemes, which we read in the Scriptures, of Jehovah having imparted; such as creation, providence, redemption.
2. Manifestations of the existence and the extent of that hatred of iniquity which God habitually cherishes. We find many such manifestations. Illustration--Angels that lost their first estate. Loss of Eden. Story of Sodom, etc. (James Marshall, A. M.)
Thou hatest all workers of iniquity.
God’s hatred of sinners
Here is a plain declaration.
I. That God does hate the persons of impenitent sinners. It is often said that God hates sin, but not sinners. The point now to prove is, that God hates sinners themselves, as vile and odious creatures. It is allowed that God loves all that love Him, and it is equally true that He hates those who hate Him. The Old Testament abounds with passages in which God expresses His displeasure, His wrath, and His indignation towards sinners.
II. Why does God hate the persons of sinners? Many consider sin in the abstract, and God as hating it in the abstract. But who can conceive of sin without a sinner? Or of sin that no person ever committed? Every sin is a transgression of the law, and renders the transgressor both criminal and hateful. The transgression cannot be separated from the transgressor, any more than his reason, or conscience, or any other property or quality of his mind can be separated from him. The apostle represents sin as corrupting all the powers and faculties of sinners. This moral corruption of sinners he represents as rendering them vile and hateful, even in their own sight. Their evil hearts render their persons morally evil and hateful in the sight of God. It is holiness of heart that makes saints lovely, and the reverse is equally true of sinners.
III. How God’s hating the persons of sinners is consistent with His loving them. Some have attempted to evade this difficulty by supposing that all the Scripture says about the displeasure, the hatred, the wrath and anger of God, is to be understood figuratively; and that no such exercises or emotions of heart can exist in the mind of an absolutely perfect and immutable being. But to suppose that God does not really hate sinners is evading rather than solving the difficulty. Others say that God loves sinners themselves, and only hates their sins. But it is abundantly evident from Scripture that God does really and literally love and hate sinners at the same time. What kind of love does God exercise towards sinners? They are not proper objects of approbation or complacence, but of disapprobation and hatred. It is only the love of benevolence that God exercises towards totally depraved sinners. He loves all His creatures, whether rational or irrational. If He loves them with the love of benevolence, He cannot love them with the love of complacence. Benevolence hates selfish and sinful creatures, as much as it loves holy and virtuous creatures. Holiness in the Deity produces love to the holy, and hatred to the unholy. There are two things in sinners which render them objects of both love and hatred. Their capacity to enjoy happiness and suffer misery renders them proper objects of benevolence, and’ their sinful character renders them proper objects of displeasure, disapprobation, and hatred. God views them in both lights. His love towards them is benevolent love, and His hatred towards them is benevolent hatred. Improvement.
1. If God’s hatred of impenitent sinners is consistent with His love of benevolence towards them, then it is consistent with His benevolence to hate them as long as they continue impenitent.
2. If God loves and hates sinners in this world at all, then He loves and hates them more than any other being does in the universe.
3. If impenitent sinners themselves are as much the objects of God’s hatred as of His love, then it is very important that they should be made sensible of it.
4. If it be consistent with the benevolence of God towards sinners to hate them, then it is consistent with His benevolence to express His hatred towards them.
5. If God’s hatred of impenitent sinners flows from His benevolence, then His punishing them must flow from His benevolence.
6. If it be the benevolence of God that disposes Him to hate and punish impenitent sinners forever, then it is extremely absurd and dangerous for sinners to rely on His mere benevolence to save them in the eleventh and dying hour. This subject calls on all to inquire and determine whether they are saints or sinners. (N. Emmons, D. D)
The relation of the righteous God to wicked men
In the second century, Celsus, a celebrated adversary of Christianity, distorting our Lord’s words, complained, “Jesus Christ came into the world to make the most horrible and dreadful society; for He calls sinners and not the righteous; so that the body He came to assemble is a body of profligates, separated from good men, among whom they before were mixed. He has rejected all the good and collected all the bad.” “True,” said Origen in reply, “our Jesus came to call sinners--but--to repentance. He assembled wicked--but to convert them into new men, or rather to change them into angels. We come to Him covetous, He makes us liberal; lascivious, He makes us chaste; violent, He makes us meek; impious, He makes us religious.”
I will come into Thy house in the multitude of Thy mercy.
This noble resolution. It manifests--
I. An independence of character. “As for me.” How many there are who follow the crowd! Whether for evil or good, where the multitude go they will go. Hundreds stay away from the house of God either because it is not fashionable to go there or because they are afraid of being singular. Such was not David’s course.
II. A noble determination. “I will come into Thy house.” Two or three thoughts will show the nature of the act.
1. David was a king. He might have thought it beneath him to leave his throne and humble himself before God in the worship of the temple. But kings as well as subjects need the pardon of their sins, the help of the Holy Spirit, and the Divine favour. And no king could do a more noble act than show an example of pious devotion.
2. David was a man of war. He was constantly engaged in bitter contests. But he did not, therefore, abstain from attending the house of God.
3. David was a busy man. He had to manage the affairs of a large and distracted kingdom; yet he still found time for attending the house of God.
4. David was a clever man. He was also a good man. He might have said, “What good can I get from the temple? I know the services,” etc. But humility always attends those who have real merit, while those who have little to boast of fail to avail themselves of opportunities of improvement because of their self-conceit. A real Christian feels his deficiencies.
III. A worthy object. “I will come into Thy house.” Public worship is the most important part of Christian life.
1. It is obeying the Divine command. The duty of gathering ourselves together is imposed upon us in many parts of the Scriptures. Not only was it insisted upon in the Old Testament, but it is still more urged in the New.
2. It is the means of developing the Christian life. In the assemblies of the saints the Holy Spirit was given at first, and is still bestowed. Here spirituality is deepened and the work of conversion carried on.
3. It is the appointed means of communing with God. We can pray in private; but we have particular access in the house of prayer. (Homilist.)
The tribute of worship
From the sense the Psalmist had of God’s manifold, repeated favours to him, from the multitude of the Divine mercies towards him, he would be always glad and ready to resort to the house of God; there to prostrate himself with all humble reverence, and there to pay Him the tribute of a public and solemn worship.
I. The reasonableness of this resolution. His reason in this instance was indeed occasional and particular, and but one of the many motives which persuade to the discharge of this important duty. Consider well the intrinsic grounds of that fitness which it is so generally agreed there is in the worship of our Maker. Moral duties have, besides His will and pleasure, reasons of their own. How doth the relation of a reasonable creature to an all-perfect Creator, infinite in wisdom, goodness, and power, introduce the fitness of any application from the one to the other, in the offices of religious worship? How should it appear, if God had not commanded it, that He would either expect or accept such a service from us? With what view do we lay our wants before Him? Doth He not know them beforehand much better than we do? Or doth His goodness want solicitation to induce Him to be yet more gracious than He is? Or when we deprecate the punishment of our sins, and implore His merciful pardon, do we intend to make our impressions upon the tenderness of His nature? Or when we approach Him with the charity of our intercessions for His mercies and blessings to our fellow creatures, is it that we are better than they? Are we more mindful of their interests than He is? Or when we praise Him for His benefits with joyful lips, do we mean by the pleasing sound of our eucharistical oblations to engage ‘His goodness in the more and further largesses of His favour? If these are improper regards, what more proper reason will be left for the support of our worship? Why are we commanded to pray? Because prayer recognises and settles upon our minds a sense of those several attributes and perfections in God, the dutiful and cordial acknowledgment whereof is most likely to maintain and preserve us in the state of dependence and subjection we were made for. When we approach God in the humble strains of penitential sorrow, what a scene of melting and moving considerations must open to our minds! What indignation that we have not yet approved, what fear that we may not, what vehement desire that we may approve our hearts before Him in all holy obedience. Do we engage in the charitable office of intercession for others? The seeds of mutual benevolence are fostered hereby and greatly cultivated. We cannot ask with any decency the forgiveness of their sins at the hands of God, whose trespasses against ourselves we should not be willing to remit or pardon. Finally, the offices of praise and thanksgiving add the motives of gratitude to the sense of our dependence, and inspire us with a more generous and honourable principle of obedience.
II. The fitness of the place He chose for it. The palace of God’s holiness where numbers resorted for the purposes of public prayer and thanksgiving. An appropriate place is necessary to the purposes of public worship.
III. The manner of executing the pious resolution. In the fear of God with an awful sense of His wisdom, goodness, and power. With reverence and godly fear. This every attribute of God, when duly improved to us by proper reflections, may help to enforce and to inculcate. Even the forgiveness that there is with Him, by the manner and method wherein we partake of it, was, with our holy Psalmist, a motive to the fear of Him. (N. Marshall, D. D.)
In Thy fear will I worship toward Thy holy temple.
The Christian worshipping in God’s temple
Two qualifications of a right worshipper of Jehovah are here set before us.
1. “I will come into Thy house in the multitude of Thy mercy.” He seems to trace all the multitudinous streams of the Divine goodness to one great fountain, and then as he looks at that fountain overflowing on every side, and pouring out its waters in those numberless streams, he calls it a multitudinous fountain; he says, “The multitude of Thy mercy.” He will go to God’s house -
(1) With a thankful remembrance of the Lord’s great mercies past.
(2) With a lively sense of God’s great mercy now. And
(3) With great expectations from His mercy.
2. “In Thy fear will I worship.” Fear, as we generally experience it, is a humiliating and painful feeling. We suffer under it, and are ashamed of it. And because of this, we cannot disconnect the ideas of pain and humiliation from it. But fear is not necessarily a painful thing. Real godliness is called a “holy fear of God.” Perfect love does indeed cast out fear; but what fear? Only the fear that hath torment; servile fear. The fear David means here, is that feeling which naturally arises in the human mind from the contemplation of any object immensely superior to ourselves. It is made up of admiration, awe, and reverence. The phrase “worship toward His holy temple,” is taken from a custom among the Jews of always turning towards the temple or tabernacle when they prayed.
3. See these two things conjoined. They may be conjoined; and it is good for us to have these two things conjoined. The union qualifies us for the service and worship of God in His house. And these feelings must correspond with God’s character. Let us all, then, seek to cultivate these holy feelings. (C. Bradley.)
Worship, a sight of God
Belief in God is the great regenerating force of the world. The loss which the unbeliever suffers is enormous. For it does matter what God a man believes in, for his character will be as his faith. Darwin says, “That with the existence of the more civilised races the conviction of the existence of an all-seeing Deity has had a potent influence in the advancement of morality.” But morality means the highest welfare of mankind. Faith in God depends upon culture: we are not born believers. There are races who seem to have no such faith; and there seems, alas, in too many Christian countries, a tendency to revert to primitive barbarism in this respect! Its beginning may be detected in the neglect of public religious service. When a man begins to neglect his church, he loses one of the things which keep faith in God alive within him. But if such faith is to be a power, it must have some finer education than can be had from mere formal attendance at church; it must, in fact, be a sight of God. This is the highest act of religious service, it is the act and state of worship. What is worship? It does not mean all sorts of religious services, but it is one particular state of mind. And this not a self-regarding one. It seeks not to get something for itself, though indeed it gains much. But that is not its object, which is the looking upon that which attracts the mind by its own intrinsic worth or worthiness. This is the real meaning of the word “worship.” Of the self-regarding states are our appetites and passions. They are for self. And prayer, whilst it looks to God, is yet that it may gain for self. Its two great words are, Give and Forgive. But there are states of mind which look quite away from self. Nature, in her highest moods, and Art, in some of its grandest expressions, are able to thus absorb us and hold us spellbound. The mind is taken out of itself and placed in a strange mysterious atmosphere. And so worship is the mind entranced, fascinated, spellbound by the sight of what God is in Himself. Thus worship implies a sight of God. But not any sight. Some views of God are so oppressive and terrifying as to palsy the mind with fear. For many practically hold God to be the author of evil rather than of good, and think of Him only to find out how they may appease Him. They come before Him in awful dread. But the highest form of religious service--seen with such lofty pathos in the worship of our Lord and Master, and presented to us as the absorbing occupation of heaven--is the beatific vision of God and the dwelling upon Him until earthly pains and sorrows and sins fall off from us and all is tranquil as a dreamless sleep.
“In such access of mind, in such high hour
Of visitation from the living God,
Thought was not; in enjoyment it expired.
No thanks he breathed, he proffered no request,
Rapt into still communion that transcends
The imperfect offices of prayer and praise.”
Now we might and should have more of this Divine elevation in our religious services. If there were there would be no fear of the neglect of public worship. But for this we must prepare ourselves. Like David we should sit still for a while. We should come as he says, here in the text, that he will come. In praise we have the best opportunity of rising to adoration, as in the “Te Deum” and in the “Gloria in Excelsis.” But we cannot drop into a grand view of God as we drop into our seats at church. To such an elevation we must climb. This is the ideal after which we should reach. It is no sterile contemplation. It gives tone to the character, and dignity to the life. (W. Page Roberts.)
The solemn service of God
I. The motives we have to join in the solemn service of God. One leading object which we ought to have in view is to promote the glory of God by the conversion or confirmation of others; but still it is in consideration of His mercy that we magnify Jehovah in His other attributes. The Psalmist considered it to be an invaluable privilege that he was permitted to take part in the solemn and public worship of God. He knew the comfort and benefit which flowed from that privilege.
II. The dispositions to be acquired in order that it may be an acceptable sacrifice. The value to ourselves depends on the use we make of it, and on the state of our own hearts. The true worshipper is studious.
1. To bring into the sanctuary a purified heart, at least a heart that seeks to be purified and to experience, in the serious and faithful use of the appointed means of grace, the renewing and refreshing influences of that Spirit who helpeth our infirmities.
2. The spirit of purity requires a spirit of fear. “In Thy fear will I worship.” We are invited, by the Sabbath bell, to an act of solemn and direct intercourse with our Maker, our Redeemer, our Sanctifier, and our Judge. Is that an employment which we can presume to take in hand without the most serious consideration, the most entire collectedness of thought, the warm glow of thankfulness and love?
3. The worship must be attended with faith and hope. The experience of mercies past, and the sure promise of their continuance, the gracious invitations and affectionate expostulations of Him who has described Himself as hearing and answering prayer, should fill us with the spirit of supplication. God loves to listen to the united praises of those who are met together in His name. (Bishop Bloomfield.)
Lead me, O Lord, in Thy righteousness.
A resolve and a prayer
God is addressed as a friend. Three things in David’s prayer.
1. What is the rule according to which he looks for this Divine guidance? “Lead me in Thy righteousness.” The righteousness here is God’s faithfulness. All God’s dealings with His people have been faithful.
2. Why he wishes this leading. It is that he may be divinely instructed in the right path. The Christian may sometimes be in a state of great perplexity as to the way he should go. He desires Divine guidance in the path of Christian experience, in the path of practice, and in the path of precept.
3. The motive he pleads to enforce it with God. The margin reads--“Because of my observers. Who are our observers? The world, fellow Christians, ministers, angels, and God. (William Jay.)
Make Thy way straight before my face.--
Two men aspire to be inventors of first-rate rank. The one spends all his life in study and experiment, and lights upon nothing new; but the other has some surprising discovery to put before the public every year or two. How do we explain the difference? Is it luck and nothing more? The unsuccessful inventor, with perhaps equal ingenuity, is following impracticable and unremunerative paths for a lifetime. The successful inventor knows in what direction others have toiled without profit, and scarcely ever spends a week on a misleading scent. His shrewd despair of finding anything new or remunerative in certain directions shuts him up to one golden path of fruitful research. (Thomas G. Selby.)
Because Thou defendest them.
I. The Lord is our good protector.
1. A sympathising Protector. He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye.
2. A sure Protector. He will save us with His right hand.
3. A personal Protector. He does not deal with the mass, but with the individual.
4. An everlasting Protector. Underneath us are the everlasting arms.
5. A loving Protector. The most endearing images are used in the Bible to tell us of the love of our God.
II. The condition required. They who would be protected must trust themselves in His care and be guided by His wishes. Is it not easy to trust in Him when we remember His almighty power, His perfect wisdom, and that He is our loving Father?
III. The protection He affords to His trusting people. He protects us--
1. From the slavery of sin.
2. From the penalty of transgression.
3. From the penalty which our sin leaves on us.
4. From the despair of failure. (W. Birch.)
Trust and joy in God
At an early period of his life Mozart, the composer, gave his heart to God. When he was twenty-one years of age he wrote, “I have God always before me. Whatever is according to His will is according to mine, therefore I cannot fail to be happy and contented.”.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 5". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany