Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
A Psalm of David. I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise unto thee.Psalm 138:8
In Unorthodox London (2nd Series, pp. 255-60) C. Maurice Davies describes a service at the City Temple. He says that Dr. Parker took as his text the words, 'Forsake not the works of Thine own hands'.
'He proposed to examine the natural claims we had on God. We did not ask to be here in this world, but here we are, and therefore we had a right by nature, by the state of things in which we found ourselves, to say that, under such circumstances, we ought not to be forsaken. It was not enough to bring us here. If we had asked to be brought, then we might have divided the responsibility.
'You yourselves,' he said, 'allow the efficacy of such an appeal. A child, it may be, left you ten years ago, and though that child could not plead virtue, it could groan forth the heart-breaking word, "Bad as I am, I am your own flesh and blood. I have done wrong, but don't let me rot. This flesh is your flesh. May I not come home on that natural claim?" So we could say to God, "Thou didst not make us thoughtlessly. That would have been unworthy of a work which comprised within it the stars and the angels. Don't forsake us."
'Some said,' the preacher continued, 'that as vessels of wrath, God had the right to dash us to pieces just as the potter had the work of his hands. No: God might dispose thus of masses of men, but He dealt differently with individuals. The text was a lawful, a pathetic, and a universal appeal. Now what was God's answer to this pathetic appeal of forsaken men? The whole constitution of nature,' he again submitted, 'was God's answer by anticipation. It would have no meaning else. For every desire of man there was a provision: for his hunger a table, for his thirst fountains of living water—springs perennial and inexhaustible. The answer came before the cry. Nature would be one huge waste if this were not so. When we are asked, "Will God forsake the works of His hands," we may take the whole scheme of nature for our answer. The whole constitution of things—mountains, streams, forests, fowl, and fish—are a pledge that God will not forsake man. He makes His rain to fall and His sun to shine on all—on the man who prays and on the man who blasphemes. You ask what is man's claim on God. This is the infinite reply.
'No bird ever sang the pathetic refrain of the text. The young lion finds his mouthful of food. It is man only that realizes the idea of being forsaken. The greater the life the greater the need, just as it had been curiously said, the more glorious the intellect the nearer to insanity. It is man who cries, "Why standest Thou so far off, O God?" Millions of human voices were gathered up in that cry on the Cross, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" We see man's greatness in his distress. As man suffers more than beast or bird, so he can enjoy and know and realize more. Are ye not much better than they?
'It is we who have forsaken God. The forsakenness is not on man's side. His children have gone from Him to be guests at the devil's table. All we, like sheep, have gone astray.
'Does God forsake the righteous? Don't let us give an opinion today. Let an old man speak—a bright old man, with silver locks on his shoulder and an eye like a star. He has a harp in his hand, and thus the old ministrel sings, "I have been young and now am old, yet saw I never the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging their bread". David never saw the child of God dead upon his Father's doorstep. If you are forsaken, ask yourselves whether you have been righteous. Paul and David—the great reasoner and the greater singer—answer, "Cast down, but not forsaken".
'Make His service your delight
He'll make your wants His care.
'The above is only a condensation of a long and eloquent discourse. Some of the bits were worthy of Charles Dickens. For instance, picturing the abode of a poor widow, Dr. Parker spoke of "a place out of which even a sheriff's officer could not take more than the shadow, and would not take that because he could not sell it". "I have been as nearly forsaken as any man in the world. I looked around on all sides, but could see no way out—no lateral way, only a vertical one!"'
References.—CXXXVIII. 8.—A. Maclaren, Old Testament Outlines, p. 152. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. v. p. 231. Ibid. vol. xxv. No. 1506. A. P. Peabody, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii. p. 158.
I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.
In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.
All the kings of the earth shall praise thee, O LORD, when they hear the words of thy mouth.
Yea, they shall sing in the ways of the LORD: for great is the glory of the LORD.
Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me.
The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.