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God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause His face to shine upon us.
Illumining the life
Let us mark the two extremes of the psalm. It begins with “God be merciful unto us,” and it ends with “Then shall the earth yield her increase.” There is some mysterious but very real connection between the fertility of nature and the character of man. Nature is not to reach her consummation until man himself is at his best. “God be merciful unto us.” That is where human possibility begins, in the mercy of God. But this word “mercy” has grown very thin by common usage, and in ordinary currency it has lost much of its essential worth. We too often interpret it from the standpoint of the magisterial bondage, and it becomes significant of the summary dismissal of an action, and the release of the prisoner. We shall never really understand the inner content of the Scriptural word until we get far away from the court of law. It is infinitely more than a cold acquittal. The innermost element of the word is suggestive of “stooping,” the stronger bending toward the weak. “And bless us.” And what shall we say of this great word? There is no commoner word to be found in the speech of prayer. Now, perhaps I can best suggest the inconceivable wealth of the word if I say that it includes all the many significances of the English words beginning with “bone.” Let my hearers take these words, and apply every one of them to the ministry of the Almighty, and they will obtain a glimpse and a hint of the manifold meaning of the blessing of God. Take the word “benevolence,” and the word “benediction,” and the word “benefaction,” and then let the single colours mingle, and the result will give us some faint conception of the benefits of the Lord. “Cause Thy face to shine upon us.” It is a plea for the light of God’s presence. It is a prayer that He would “countenance” our goings out and our comings in. It is “to walk all day beneath Thy smile.” It is more than that. When the light of the Lord’s countenance falls upon us we, too, become illumined. “They looked unto Him and were lightened.” That is to say, they were lit up! Their faces caught the glory of the Lord, as I have seen a cottage window shining with the reflected radiance of the sun. These, then, are the three great preliminaries in the making of a noble life, which shall witness to the power of the King. We are to receive the mercy of God, and the blessing of God, and the shining presence of God. And what is the purpose of it all when these gifts have been received? “That Thy way may be known upon earth.” That is the purpose of it. All these earlier phrases have described the making of the Lord’s witness, and now we are told what is to be the ministry of the witness. We are lit up in order that we may reveal the Lord. We are to be illumined in order that men may see our God. “That Thy way may be known upon earth.” We are to make known the Lord’s beaten tracks, His manners, His modes of action, His course of life. Men are to see our beauty, and through it discern the Lord’s habits. “And Thy saving health among all nations.” Our healed life is to be the witness of the Great Physician’s power of healing. If I may reverently say it, the radiance of our character is to advertise the glory of the Lord. What are the signs that the witness is effective, and that the saving health is become pervasive? “Let the people praise Thee, O God.” That would be the first token of an effective ministry. Thy people will begin to praise. They will fall into the attitude of reverent worship. “Let the nations be glad.” That is to be the next step in the noble sequence. The people are to be brightened, cheered up, made merry I They are to become optimistic in their hopes, and full of encouragement in their speech. “Then shall the earth yield her increase.” I do not wonder at it. As I have already said, in the opening of this meditation, we shall have finer gardens when we are finer men. The field will put on richer garments when we are clothed in white robes. (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)
The greatest need of foreign missions
The psalm was intended, commentators tell us, for some great temple festival, possibly the Feast of Tabernacles, in a year of exceptional increase. But what strikes me as I read it is its universal note. There is nothing local, particular, or Jewish about it. The psalm is as much at home in the Christian Church as in the Jewish Temple, as much at home centuries after Christ as it was centuries before He came.
I. The first remark I wish to make is that this psalm, in the scope and sweep of its petitions, supplies us with a pattern and example for our prayers. “God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause His face to shine upon us.” That is how the psalm begins. The psalmist’s first thought is for his own people, for his own kindred, according to the flesh. But that is not where the psalm ends. In the very next verse the horizon recedes, the outlook broadens, the national need gives Way to the universal need. He has scarcely offered up his prayer for his nation before his compassions are running out to the countries beyond, and in the very next breath he is interceding for all nations and for the wide earth. There is nothing local, there is nothing exclusive about this prayer. The psalmist overleaps all national boundaries, and brings the wide world before God. He has all Christ’s passion for those other sheep which are not of the Jewish fold. He has all Paul’s desire that the Gospel may be preached to those who have not heard it. True prayer is always world-wide and universal. It is right to begin where this prayer begins--at home; it is not right to finish there. You must enlarge the scope of your petitions, and you must not rest till you have brought the “ends of the earth” before God. I pity the man who in his prayers never gets beyond “God be merciful unto us, and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us”; for he has simply not learned the elements of prayer. For that is a marred prayer, a narrow prayer, and a selfish prayer. And whatever Christianity is or is not, it is the very antithesis of selfishness. “Let this mind be in you,” said the apostle, “which was also in Christ Jesus.” What was the mind that was in Christ Jesus? It was an unselfish mind. Our Lord was always thinking about other people. His thought travelled far beyond His own kindred to those peoples lying in ignorance and sin; to all the millions who lived without God and without hope. Am I wrong in thinking that, speaking generally, Christian people do not possess our Lord’s wide-world outlook, that our affections are cramped by national and racial differences, that we do not realize that men everywhere are the loved of God, the redeemed of Christ, and that we do not pant and yearn for their enlightenment and salvation as our Lord did? Some do, I know. David Brainerd--his enthusiastic spirit had no rest in his passion for prayer for his Indians. This lack of concern for the salvation of the world results in parochial and narrow and selfish prayers. “God be merciful unto us, and bless us”--we begin there, and there oftentimes we finish. None of Christ’s melting passion for the “other sheep” creeps into our prayers. The psalmist’s prayer, while beginning with himself, expands till he embraces the whole earth.
II. But notice even in his personal prayer he has got the universal good before his eyes. “God be merciful unto us, and bless us”--what for? “That Thy name may be known upon earth, Thy saving health among all nations.” He does not ask for personal blessing for merely selfish ends. He asks for it that it may serve the universal good. He asks God to bless Israel in order that through Israel, so blessed, God’s way may be known upon earth, His saving health amongst all nations. The psalmist has grasped this truth, that Divine favours and blessings are never bestowed upon men or nations for merely selfish enjoyment, but they are always bestowed upon them for service. Our Lord appointed twelve, “that they should be with Him, and that He might send them forth to preach.” He chose these twelve men that they might be with Him to be His friends and associates, to accompany Him in all His journeys, to share His intimate fellowship. He conferred upon these twelve the highest privilege ever bestowed upon mortal men. The high privilege conferred upon the twelve was meant for the enriching of the world. “He appointed twelve that they should be with Him, and that He might send them forth.” That illustrates a law. God’s blessings are never for selfish ends, they are always meant for the benefit of the wide world. For instance, God reveals to a doctor, let us say, some secret that makes for the health and wellbeing of mankind. He reveals it to him, not that he may hug it to himself, but that he may share it so that the whole world may be the better for it. The manifold religious privileges that this land of ours enjoys were never meant for England’s sake only. They have been conferred upon England in order that through England they may become the possession of the wide world. The light of the knowledge of the glory of God which you and I enjoy is not for our own personal gratification merely. It has been given to us that we may share it and diffuse it. You have the light. Have you shared it, diffused it, spread it abroad? Or have we, like some stagnant pool, tried to keep that Which we have received? My brethren, the Christian ought never to be represented by the pool; he ought always to be represented by the stream. The pool takes all it can get and gives nothing; receives everything, parts with nothing; and reaps the penalty of its own selfishness in putridity and stagnation. The stream is always giving itself away. It runs down the hills, and as it runs down it gives greenness to the fields, cleansing and refreshing to the dwellers in the towns. Starting in the mountain, where all is at its sweetest and loveliest, it does not linger in its mountain home. It says, “There are thirsting people crying out for me; there are parched lands crying out for me,” and so it hurries down the mountain slope, past the village, into the valley, through the town, on and on, so long as there is a single yard of land to be blessed by it; on and on until the great sea is reached.
III. And now, just for a moment or two further, let me ask you to notice the words with which the psalmist describes the blessings thus given to the world through the agency of Israel. It is really the blessing of salvation, but he uses two figures that describe it. He first speaks of it as “God’s way,” and in the second place as “God’s saving health.” Just look at these two figures for a moment. First, he asks that Israel may be blessed in order that “God’s way” may be known upon earth. Now, you see that the psalmist uses a figure which is familiar to all Old Testament writers--the figure of a man as a traveller, a wayfarer, a pilgrim; a traveller, as John Bunyan has put it, from the City of Destruction to the City Celestial. Or, if you like to put the same truth in a rather different form, let us say man is a traveller whose goal is happiness and peace, and there is a certain way along which he must travel if he is ever to reach that goal, if life is to be ever happy and peaceful in its course and triumphant at its end. Enoch walked with God--that is the way. He is the only successful traveller who walks with God. When the psalmist looks around him he sees multitudes of people out of the way. Like sheep they have gone astray, they have turned every one to his own way. That means misery, wretchedness, despair. God’s way is the only right way. There has been no other way discovered. But as I look out upon the world to-day I see millions of people out of the way, turning every one to his own way and reaping misery and unrest as the result. Now, did you never feel any desire to bring these wandering people back? He has blessed us just in order that His way may be known upon earth. And the second figure the psalmist uses is this--“God’s saving health.” “Thy saving health among all nations.” And if the first figure of “the way” suggests a lost and wandering world, this figure of “saving health” suggests a sick world. Here is the world from the Bible standpoint--“The whole head is sick, the whole heart is faint; from the sole of the foot to the crown of the head there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and festering sores.” And it is not the Bible only that says it. Modern literature says it in equally plain and emphatic terms. Listen to this from Thomas Hardy: “Did you say that the stars were worlds, Tess?. . . Yes.” “All like ours?” “I don’t know, but I think so. They sometimes seem to me like apples on our tree, most of them splendid and sound, but a few blighted.” “Which do we live on, Tess?. . . A blighted one.” A sick world, that is what the Bible says, that is what literature says, that is what experience says. And this is how God’s salvation comes to us--it comes as “saving health.” God’s purpose is wholeness for every man. God’s end for you and me is to make us morally sound. God’s salvation restores unto perfect soundness and complete health. Life becomes absolutely normal. It is “saving health.” The evangelist Matthew emphasizes the healing work of Christ again and again. “He healed all manner of diseases and all manner of sicknesses.” But it was not bodily sickness alone that Christ healed. He healed the broken and the sick soul. To the sick of the palsy He said, “Thy sins are forgiven thee.” It is for the Christian Church still to make God’s “saving health” known among all nations. Wherever the missionary goes you find a hospital. Jesus can give what no doctor can give--He can give healing to the soul. There are people who preach in these days a religion of healthy-mindedness. They tell us to ignore sin and evil and death. But sin and evil and death are here. They will not be ignored. An ostrich policy of that kind does not get rid of these things. “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” “He that believeth on Me shall never die.” Well, ought we not to get the good news about God’s “saving health” known amongst all nailers? The world to-day is full of sick souls. India, China, Africa, are full of men and women burdened and troubled and oppressed with sin, haunted by the fear of death. Ought we not to tell them to come to Jesus Christ? Pass on the good news. Do you not think that we ought to tell every stricken soul about Him who is able to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease? Now, I lay the case of these sick souls upon your consciences--blighted by sin, and you and I know about the blood that can cleanse from it; all their lifetime in bondage through fear of death, and you and I know who can give them the victory over it. I lay the ease upon your consciences. God has blessed us and caused His face to shine upon us and been gracious unto us simply in order that His way might be known upon earth and His saving health among all nations. May He help us to spread the news, that we may share thus in the icy of the Cross that makes Christ’s kingdom come. (J. D. Jones, M. A.)
A universal new year’s prayer
I. That fresh supplies of Divine goodness are constantly needed by man. “God be merciful unto us,” etc. The benediction which the Almighty Himself put of old into the mouth of the high priest, to be pronounced on Israel, is the spirit and model of these words (Numbers 6:24-26). Hence our text is Divine, and may be used with reverent and unbounded confidence. It invokes fresh communications of His love. “Bless us.” Has not God always blessed us, through the whole of our life? Verily. Still we need a continuation. A rest in the flow of His beneficence would be our ruin, would terminate our being in black extinction. The words invoke also a fresh assurance of His love. “Cause His face to shine upon us.” The face is the symbol of the soul and the expression of its deepest things. Hence the meaning of the prayer is, Assure us of Thy love. This conscious dependence of the soul upon God is the very essence of religion.
II. That the universal diffusion of Divine knowledge is of paramount importance to man. “That Thy way may be known,” etc. What are the things relating to God, a knowledge of which is so devoutly sought for the race?
1. His general method of action. “Thy way.” God has a method by which He gives His harvests: the farmer must practically recognize and follow it, if he would have his labour rewarded by abundant crops. God has a method by which He restores exhausted energies and impaired health; the physician must follow that method, if he would succeed in his profession. God has a method by which He imparts knowledge to mankind; the inquirer must follow it, if he would obtain intelligence and wisdom. And He has a method by which fallen souls may be redeemed; and this method must be followed before salvation can be reached.
2. His special method of salvation. “Thy saving health among all nations.” God has a method of moral restoration. He has salvation, He has health for the diseased, liberty for the captive, knowledge for the ignorant, pardon for the guilty, and immortality for the dying. And He has a method for imparting this salvation. What is that? (John 6:40).
III. That God’s connection with the world is the great hope of man (Psalms 67:4).
1. God judges the nations righteously.
2. God leads the nations on. “And govern the nations upon earth.” Margin, “lead.” God does not drive men, but leads them. He leads them, as a commander does his army, against the mighty hosts of evil principles, institutions, and habits.
IV. That spiritual excellence is conducive to the temporal interests of man. “Then shall the earth yield her increase.” The language implies that it is when “all the people praise God,” that all the people shall have temporal plenty, that “the earth shall yield her increase.” It is not difficult to see how spiritual excellence is conducive to temporal prosperity. Let the people be industrious, then they will put forth those efforts by which worldly good is generally obtained. Let them be temperate and economical, then self-indulgence and extravagance, which are the prolific sources of poverty, will cease.
V. That true worship comprehends the supreme good of man. The whole psalm implies this. (Homilist.)
That Thy way may be known upon earth, Thy saving health among all nations.
The missionary prayer
I. The right moral condition of the Church is of supreme importance.
II. The Church being morally right, She is to be the medium of making known the supreme knowledge to others. The vital possession of this knowledge gives existence to the supreme joy.
1. The joy of Divine satisfaction.
2. The joy of a Hew experience.
3. The joy of melody and praise.
What a change this knowledge produces! It turns night into morning, sadness into songs. Being the supreme knowledge, it creates the supreme joy.
IV. The prevalence of this knowledge, and the presentation of this praise, will ensure a golden harvest of prosperity. (J. O. Keen, D. D.)
Our duties in regard to missions
I. Think of the great things that God has done for us, and survey our present condition.
1. The duty of a Christian congregation to aid in sending the Gospel to Jews and heathen is not a matter of indifference or choice; it is essentially and inseparably, as it were, a part of our existence.
2. The graces of the Spirit cannot remain inactive within us. If we have love, it shows itself in the Saviour’s cause.
3. It is by His Church that His Church will be completed.
4. As the Lord has appointed His Church as the channel to supply the waters of grace, so He has honoured those churches and congregations especially who have been the most forward to fulfil their office; for the congregation that scattereth is that which increaseth; and they that water shall be watered also themselves.
II. The best method of fulfilling our duty in this matter.
1. Let us endeavour to have it wrought into our minds as a Christian principle, as a part of our Christianity, as a matter of course, to be concerned and interested in promoting the Redeemer’s glory by the extension of His Kingdom.
2. That this missionary spirit may be maintained and duly directed among us, I would counsel you to make yourselves acquainted with the progress of the Gospel in the world.
3. Seek to feel more deeply the conviction that that which lies nearest to the Saviour’s heart is, that the Father may be glorified in the conversion of sinners, and the building up of His Church.
4. Watch for opportunities of serving in His cause. (John Tucker, B. D.)
The extension of the Word of God abroad, intimately connected with its revival at home
I. That God’s way is not at present known in all the earth, nor His saving health among all nations.
II. That it is God’s will that His way should be known in all the earth, and His saving health among all nations. This is demonstrable--
1. From all those passages of Scripture which teach that all nations are to be blest in Christ.
2. From our Lord’s commission to His apostles.
3. From our Lord’s parables of the mustard seed and the leaven.
III. That this will be accomplished by human instrumentality.
IV. that the direct instruments to be employed in making God’s way known in all the earth are His own people. Other instruments are frequently employed as their harbingers. Such are war and commerce. These remove obstructions, level mountains, fill valleys, drain marshes, and build bridges. They have been the precursors of the Gospel in many places, particularly in the East. But the direct instruments of making the way of the Lord known, are His own people.
1. By an enlightened, pious, and zealous ministry.
2. By the consistent piety of Christ’s people.
3. By their individual and united exertions to promote the cause of Christ.
1. If piety be necessary to usefulness, let us pray for an increase of it in ourselves and others.
2. If many of our own countrymen are yet strangers to God’s way, let us labour to instruct them.
3. If hundreds of millions in other lands are perishing for lack of knowledge, let us cheerfully contribute our mite to the support of pious missionaries, and pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth more labourers into the harvest. (Outlines of Four Hundred Sermons.)
The Church’s missionary psalm
Whatever other thoughts there may be in this comprehensive prayer, we cannot be mistaken in regarding the following as standing prominent among the blessings which it implores--the continued enjoyment of God’s forgiveness and friendship, and especially the increased experience of His love in quickened graces and enlarged spiritual strength; that the spring of His Church might ripen into summer; that the dawn might brighten into the perfect day; that, having life already, His people might have it more abundantly; and all this the effect of mercy, free and unforced, far-reaching-as the firmament, and fathomless as the sea.
I. There is a prayer for the revival of the Church.
II. There is a prayer for the increase of the Church.
III. The connection between the revived life of the Church and its beneficent influence upon the world is indicated in the words, “That Thy way may be known upon earth, Thy saving health among all nations.”
1. Such Church will be most secure against error and unbelief.
2. Will be most chosen of God to extend His Kingdom.
3. In such Church there will be a spirit of dependence leading to abounding prayer; great moral power; much brotherly love, and a spirit of unreserved consecration. Seek, then, above all else the Spirit of God. (Andrew Thomson, D. D.)
A plea for missions
I. We may regard these words as the prayer of British churches in reference to themselves. The text involves--
1. The avowal of conscious unworthiness. It is the prayer of the publican, God be merciful unto us, sinners.
2. The acknowledgment of dependence on God for His blessing.
3. The desire of unusual and extraordinary manifestations of Divine grace and favour.
II. The avowed faith of British churches in reference to the world. “That Thy way may be known upon earth, Thy saving health among all nations.” We may regard this part of our text in a threefold light: as the language of prayer; as the subject of prophetic anticipation; and as the recognition of a system of legitimate means.
1. True revival will remove many obstacles which now impede the way. By the augmentation of Christian principles it will prove the death-blow of party zeal, in all its subtle or more revealed forms.
2. It will purify all the passions of our nature. It will be the destruction of everything worldly in principle, of everything unholy in affection.
3. And will multiply agents also for the conversion of the world. (J. Morison, D. D.)
Conditions of spiritual growth
One of the most striking characteristics of the religion of the Bible is its universality. It is designed to, and does, meet the wants of all.
I. True religion is expansive both in its nature and effects. The highest form of life is exhibited in the most complex organization. In lower types we find that comparative simplicity of structure is sufficient to maintain and manifest vitality. But when we come to man, and examine the human organism, we see the highest type of life on earth. And so in the history of civilization. In the rude ages of the past little organization was needed. But how different now. The human life of man only reaches its perfect type when men are bound together with strong ties of mutual interest and dependence, sympathy and love. And so the true spiritual life of the soul seeks its growth by spreading its life-inspiring influence in every direction; by working in every possible way for the good of others, and by striving to bring the whole race into the brotherhood of the Kingdom of God.
II. In seeking God’s grace and blessing for ourselves, we shall have regard to the influence to be exerted for the glory of God and the welfare of men. We are mindful of these high motives when we are seeking to stimulate others and ourselves in preaching and teaching the Gospel, but we are not so when we pray for blessings upon ourselves.
III. All effective work for God must be the development of spiritual life and progress in our own souls. Christian life, like the light, radiates from a centre, and the brighter the light the farther its rays extend in every direction. Have, then, life in your souls. (Harvey Phillips, B. A.)
The conversion of the world
I. The principles that pervade this beautiful prayer.
1. Humility-here is no claim for justice, no word of merit, but a cry for mercy.
2. Patriotism. It is a prayer by Jews for Jews. And we may take the words for ourselves.
3. Mercy, regard for others.
II. The object of this prayer--the conversion of the world. The world for Christ. This is what we are bidden seek, and for which provision has been made. There must be room for the world in your hearts, your prayers, your purses. Sink not down into a littleness which belongs not to the missionary enterprise. But for the unfaithfulness of the Church the world would have been converted ere now.
III. The means by which this object is to be accomplished. This country must be blessed in order that it may bless the world; our Churches must be blessed, in order that they may bless the country; we ministers must be blessed, in order that we may be a blessing to the Churches (J. A. James.)
1. Our Lord graciously purposes for each of His children perfect health. He would have every power and faculty in our being working in holy vigour. Our health is our only safety.
(1) To be in any way sickly or weak is to offer welcome hospitality to the evil one. He seeks out our weak points, and at the undefended place he makes his entrance. Fulness of health is fulness of resistance. The healthy soul by its very vigour is fortified against the invasions of evil and night. Indifferent spiritual health is exposed to incessant peril. The city of Corinth abounded in evil. Epidemics of worldliness and vice pervaded every grade of social life. The Christian needed to be in perfect health if he were not to be smitten by the ill contagion. Men of weakly wills and indifferent consciences and lukewarm affections fell before the invader, and became the victims of the prevalent vanity or lust. And you will remember that the Apostle Paul, looking at the little Corinthian Church, was filled with anxiety concerning some of its members. “Some are sickly!” He felt that their silliness was a friendly condition to the worldliness that besieged the gates of the Church. Their weakness exposed them to its attacks. Now, the Lord purposes that we should be in perfect health. He yearns to destroy our easy susceptibility to sin, and to place the whole bias of our life in the direction of holiness. When all our powers are perfectly healthy, our very health will be our resistance to the encroachments of the devil.
(2) But spiritual health is more than self-protective; it is contagious. Common thought and common speech have made us familiar with the contagion of vice. I wish that we were equally familiar with the conception of the contagion of virtue. An evil effluence proceeds from the life of the sin-possessed; an invigorating and purifying effluence proceeds from the life of the sanctified. “Out of Him shall flow rivers of living water.” We impress and influence one another not only by what we say and what we do, but even more deeply still by what we are. Our presence itself is vitalizing if we are possessed by vigorous moral and spiritual health. In the home, in the workshop, in society, in the place of worship, our presence counts for something, counts for much, and “virtue” is going out of us as a river of operative energy in all the many relationships of our varied life. Our health is not only self-protective, it acts as a saving ministry in the lives of others.
(3) But spiritual health is not only self-protective and contagious, it is actively aggressive. “Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him.” The God-possessed exercise a repressive influence over the vices and passions of men. Everybody knows that we can create conditions that incite another man’s temper and lust, and we can create conditions by which these fires and cravings can be suppressed and destroyed. Our medical men sometimes provide medicated atmospheres to help to heal the ailments of their patients. They can soften and moisten the air, and so give comfort to the struggling and help to regain them to health. The Christian man supplies a medicated atmosphere to his brother. His very presence helps in the creation of conditions which are unfavourable to vice and friendly to virtue.
2. As for the secret of this “saving health,” it is to be found in the first verse of this psalm. The psalmist is a suppliant; he is kneeling in the presence chamber of the King. “God be merciful unto us, and bless us!” He is pleading with the good Lord to stoop in pity, and to lay upon him the forgiving and liberating hand. “Cause Thy face to shine upon us!” But that means that the suppliant’s face is turned towards the face of the Maker! We are renewed into the same image. Our countenances catch the light and life that we contemplate. He is the “health of my countenance.” We become possessed of the saving health of God. (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)
Then shall the earth yield her increase.
The influence of Christianity on the temporal future of mankind
The universal knowledge and service of God are connected with more abundant material prosperity. The earth is to yield her increase; the grapes are to hang in heavier clusters; the oil is to flow tit richer streams; the corn is to yield a more golden harvest; the pastures are to be covered with more numerous flocks; man’s temporal life is to be happier, nobler, more beautiful, when the whole race is brought back to the love and worship of the Creator. For this psalm, apt as the Jews were to forget it, and think only of themselves, foretells God’s bounty to the whole race, and not to any one part of it. There is a golden age for men in this world, in which the dreams of reformers, philanthropists and fools shall be more than fulfilled. Christianity, conversant as it is with the realities of the unseen, the spiritual and eternal, is not, as some say, without interest for the wealth, the learning, the refinement, the beauty, belonging to this transitory life. Human life, though brief, is worth our care and culture. Christ eared for this life and blessed it. He healed the sick and fed the hungry, and looked at the lilies of the field, and observed that their beauty was richer and fairer than the robe of a king. They are perverted conceptions of the Christian life which have led many good men to shrink from the touch of every secular interest and to devote themselves to a life of solitude and meditation. They forget that we are put in this world to prepare for eternity, not to be always thinking about it. True, great saints have been indifferent to the common occupations of life, but in them--the few elect souls--the Divine fire burned with such intensity as to consume their interest in all inferior things. But Christianity is not, therefore, to be censured as hostile to man’s temporal welfare. Though John Howard cared for nothing but the sorrows and injuries of the outcasts of society, philanthropy is not, therefore, charged with indifference to commerce, art and the various occupations and pursuits of men. We believe, then, that the triumph of the Christian faith will be marked by a vast uplifting of the material, intellectual, and social condition of our race. (R. W. Dale, D. D.)
Apply these words--
I. To the material or physical increase of the earth. How varied and great is this increase. But at present it is only partial. Hereafter it shall be full and complete.
II. To the earth’s spiritual increase. There will be--
1. Reverent acknowledgment of God’s majesty (Psalms 67:7).
2. The reverence of praise which is God’s due (Psalms 67:5).
3. The prevalence of God’s kingdom upon earth (Psalms 67:4).
4. The joy and gladness of the people (Psalms 67:4).
5. The harvest of redeemed souls (Psalms 67:2). (J. Bennett.)
God, even our own God, shall bless us.
I. Contemplate Him who blesses His people. “God, even,” etc. God. Our God. Our own God, for He has chosen us, and we have chosen Him.
II. The nature of the blessing. Forgiveness, grace, joy, hope.
III. The manner in which God blesses His people. Seasonably, bountifully, through Jesus Christ, eternally.
IV. Reasons why God does this. Because He loves them, would further the cause of Christ and His own glory. (T. Lewis.)
The minstrelsy of hope
“God, even our own God.” What an exceedingly sweet title! What a loveliness and liveliness of heart must have been in the man who first applied that name to God. That word “own,” or “our own,” seems always to throw an atmosphere of delicious fragrance about anything with which it is connected. If it be our country,
“Lives there a man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said
‘This is my own, my native land’?”
Whether it be a land of barren heath, or shaggy wood, or a far extended plain--all men love their own fatherland. And so with regard to our homes, our friends, our books, etc. But what shall we say of “our own God”? Words fail to express the depth of joy and delight which this name contains. They seem to be used here as a kind of argument and assurance of the blessing which is foretold “God shall bless us.” But we propose simply to keep to the words, “God shall bless us, God shall bless us.” They have been sounding in my ears like far-off bells, singing their way with a march of music into the deeps of my soul. Three personified passions will now speak to us, and we with them.
I. Fear. Fear lodges with some as an abiding guest, and is entertained as though she were a dear, familiar friend. She is ever inquiring, “Will God bless us?” and she is full of misgivings and forebodings. But our text makes answer, “God shall bless us, God shall bless us.”
II. Desire. Quick of step, bright of eye, warm of heart, Desire saith, “Ah, God shall bless us, but oh, that we had the blessing! We hunger and thirst after it.” The reply to her is, that it will come through the revival of the Church. Then the longed-for conversion of sinners will be seen. God will give us His blessing in measure correspondent to our faith. And it will come when the Church is filled with intense desire for it, and sets herself to pray for it. To the more spiritual there are certain signs which assure them that the blessing is coming. As to Elijah, the signs of abundance of rain were evident; and to Columbus, of land not far off by the sight of land birds and floating pieces of sea-weed, and broken pieces of wood. So to the spiritually minded there are sure signs of coming blessing.
III. Hope. Behold her--the sweet, bright-eyed maiden, Hope. Have you never heard the story of her matchless song? She learned in her youth a song which she sings evermore to the accompaniment of a well-tuned harp. Here are the words of her enchanting lay, “God will bless us, God will bless us.” She has been known to sing this in the midst of tempests, and calms have followed the soothing song. She has been often heard singing this in the night, and lo! stars have suddenly shone out of the black sky. Once on a time, certain strong labourers were sent forth by the great King to level a primeval forest, to plough it, to sow it, and to bring Him the harvest. They were stouthearted and strong, and willing enough for labour, and well they needed all their strength, and more. One stalwart brother was named Industry--consecrated work was his. His brother, Patience, with thews of steel, went with him, and tired not in the longest days, under the heaviest labours. To help them they had Zeal, clothed with ardent and indomitable energy. Side by side, there stood his kinsman Self-denial, and his friend Importunity. These went forth to their labour, and they took with them, to cheer their toils, their well-beloved sister, Hope; and well it was they did, for the forest trees were huge, and needed many sturdy blows of the axe ere they would fall prone upon the ground. One by one they yielded, but the labour was immense and incessant. At night when they went to their rest, the day’s work always Seemed so light, for as they crossed the threshold, Patience, wiping the sweat from his brow, would be encouraged, and Self-denial would be strengthened, for they heard a sweet voice within sing, “God will bless us, God, even our own God, will bless us.” They felled the giant trees to the music of that strain; they cleared the acres one by one; they tore from their sockets the huge roots; they delved the soil, they sowed the corn, and waited for the harvest, often much discouraged, but still in silver chains and golden fetters by the sweet sound of the voice which chanted so constantly, “God, even our own God, shall bless us.” They never could refrain from service, for she never could refrain from song. They were ashamed to be discouraged, they were shocked to be despairing, for still the voice sang out clearly at morn and eventide, “God will bless us; God, even our own God, will bless us.” You know the parable, you recognize the voice; may you hear it in your souls always. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 67". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20