Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
To the chief Musician on Neginoth, Maschil, A Psalm of David. Give ear to my prayer, O God; and hide not thyself from my supplication.The Security of Insecurity
Did you ever know so remarkable a reason assigned for irreligion? Here is the peril of a settled life. Here is the security of insecurity.
The idea of the word 'changes' is, as Poole the Puritan indicates, 'destructive changes'. They have no unpleasant, painful, changes. They live securely. All is always well with them. And this smooth, unruffled life is the ruin of their souls: 'They fear not God'. The Revised Version simply renders it as a fact without asserting the reason: 'The men who have no changes, and who fear not God'. The idea is evidently the same. Their settled life is the secret of their practical atheism. Earthly tranquillity is infinite spiritual impoverishment.
'Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God.'
I. The Fact that 'they have no Changes'.—
1. They have no regenerative changes.
2. They have no changes of circumstance.
3. Some have no intellectual changes.
4. It is possible to have no emotional changes.
5. I have known Christians who hoped to have no experimental changes. It is a vain, delusive hope. The right use of changes is a wonderful instrument of sanctification. Tribulations give permanence to the fear of God. In the lack of a continuing city here we seek a city out of sight.
II. The Consequent Fact that 'they fear not God'.
1. 'Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God.' It all but inevitably follows. There is an influence in changes which tends to the fear of God. Changes cast us upon God.
2. Changes make us pray.
3. Changes evoke praises.
4. Changes make us sympathetic.
5. Changes inspire hope in God.
—Dinsdale T. Young, The Gospel of the Left Hand, p. 123.
The Discipline of Change
It is strange that this discipline of change should be such an important factor, for we almost feel it to be unnatural.
I. There is no real rest in the world for body or mind or heart or soul. We must admit also, if we are honest with ourselves, that we need the stimulus of constant change if life is to attain its best results. Changelessness would only lull the senses and the faculties to sleep. In the stress and strain of life character is formed. If all went smoothly and softly, if life knew no dread menace, if every wind were tempered for us, and an easy path ever prepared for the feet, would we be better men and women? If there were no changes would we fear God?
II. As a matter of fact, degeneracy has always set in with both nations and men when prosperity has been unalloyed. Science is the daughter of wonder, and wonder is the fruit of all the changes and movements of the world. Religion even has her secure empire in the hearts of men through the needs of men's hearts, the need for which they crave of a changeless centre in the midst of change. Moral degeneracy creeps upon the man or the nation that sits at ease, as the stagnant pool breeds malaria. The cloudless sky is a mockery if it speak not to us of God.
III. The discipline of change is meant to drive us out beyond the changing hour to the thought of eternity, out from the restless things of sense to find rest in God. What failure is like that of those who have been chastened and yet never softened, who have gone through the fire without learning the lesson, who have tasted the sorrow without the sympathy, who have borne the cross without the love? If it be failure to have missed the fear of God, even though fortune has smiled its fairest, what failure is that which has been broken by chains, and come through all its discipline and yet is deaf to the lesson? Blessed are they who learn the Divine meaning of life's limitations.
—Hugh Black, Homiletic Review, 1904, vol. XLVIII. p. 211.
References.—Leviticus 19.—J. Martineau, Hours of Thought, vol. i. p. 127. Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv. p. 249.
The Religious Ground of Lightheartedness
I. There has always been in the world a great admiration for carelessness. A young man has a great pride in saying 'I don't care'. When a command is imposed on him by a higher authority, he often resists it; but his main motive in the resistance is to show the absence of care. When the advice of a friend arrests him in a downward path, he frequently brushes it aside; but he is not so much actuated by love of the downward path as by the wish to appear reckless and free. Recklessness is to him the synonym of manliness. Now, what is it that in our young days makes this spirit to us so attractive? It is its apparent resemblance to something which is really its contrary—the religious life.
II. There is such a thing as Christian absence of care—a freedom from weight, anxiety, depression. But it is an absence of care, not an annulling of it. The social epicurean tells his comrade to cast away his burden; the Christian tells his comrade, not to cast it away, but to lay it somewhere else: 'Cast thy burden on the Lord'. There is a very great difference between the two commands. It is the difference between throwing your money into the sea, and putting it in a bank beyond the possible risk of failure. A Christian's care is always to him his money—his treasure. He does not want to lose it; he would place it nowhere except in hands where it had no chance of being neglected. Let us say, for example, that you are anxious about the future of your child. The social epicurean will tell you: 'Live for the day; do not look forward; enjoy the present hour and let tomorrow shift for itself'. But the Christian will say: 'You will best live for the present by making tomorrow sure. If you want to enjoy the hour you need not become cold to your child's future—you need not even think less about it. You have only to put tomorrow in other hands—in safer hands—in God's hands.'
III. It is not forgetfulness you need; it is mind fulness without mourning. It is not the trampling of care under your feet, but the transference of care to another bosom. Destroy it not, ignore it not, bury it not, escape it not; but take it up tenderly, fold it up cautiously, and lay it on the heart of the Lord.
—G. Matheson, Messages of Hope, p. 145.
References.—Leviticus 22.—J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons (8th Series), p. 147. Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii. p. 30. LV.—International Critical Commentary, vol. ii. p. 19. LVI.—3,4.—A. Maclaren, Weekday Evening Addresses, p. 103.
Attend unto me, and hear me: I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise;
Because of the voice of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked: for they cast iniquity upon me, and in wrath they hate me.
My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me.
Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me.
And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.
Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. Selah.
I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest.
Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues: for I have seen violence and strife in the city.
Day and night they go about it upon the walls thereof: mischief also and sorrow are in the midst of it.
Wickedness is in the midst thereof: deceit and guile depart not from her streets.
For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him:
But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance.
We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company.
Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them.
As for me, I will call upon God; and the LORD shall save me.
Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.
He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me: for there were many with me.
God shall hear, and afflict them, even he that abideth of old. Selah. Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God.
He hath put forth his hands against such as be at peace with him: he hath broken his covenant.
The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords.
Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.
But thou, O God, shalt bring them down into the pit of destruction: bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days; but I will trust in thee.