Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
To the chief Musician, A Song or Psalm. Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands:Nothing But Miracles
That is really all I can say; if I were to add anything to that I would be adding prose to poetry, and poor, bald, rough paint to the finest colours used by finest artists. When will people believe that the text is the sermon? In this case we have sermon and text in one most surely. 'They went through the flood on foot.' Believe it, and you are a Christian; deny it, and you leave the Church, turn your back on the so-called sanctuary, and become your own altar and idol.
I. The miracles of Jesus Christ ought to be commonplaces to us. Let us place ourselves in imaginative relation to the whole conception. Christ never said, 'Gentlemen, miracles, if you please! Stand up for miracles!' Never; He grows the daisy without a word, He brings in the summer in silence fit for her queenliness, He makes no jarring, creaking noise as He rolls up the gates of the morning. But we begin where we please, and therefore God disappoints us. We begin at unaccustomed places, and say, There are many mysteries. We make the mysteries, and we must suffer for them. The Bible can only deliver its own letters sealed, and on the seal there is written, Not to be opened until the thirtieth century—century 150. The leaves that are already opened you may read, mark, and inwardly digest; they are food for your soul. These other letters are all sealed, each a legend of its own: To be read when the earth is seventy thousand years of age; when society has been on earth five hundred millenniums, then you may open this seal. But there is a rascally desire to open the seals before the time, because man is naturally, under-naturally, a thief. All men are thieves.
II. Miracles fill our human life. Some people do not understand them by the name miracles, but we understand them all by the name Providence—providences, Divine arrangements, the holy, sweet, beneficent promises of God.
We have lived this text; we ourselves are living miracles. How do you happen to be where you are? 'Ah,' you reply, 'many a time I have thought of that. If my poor old mother could see me in this office in the City of London, she would be quite sure I had stolen something, she would be very anxious to get out of the way until she could speak to me privately, and inquire however I had come to have an office so large and so fine, and boys working in connexion with me, and men working under me; why, I should have to fortify the sweet old creature considerably before she would believe that her boy that used to bring in the kine in the gloaming away out on the grey hills could have come to this position.' And God has sometimes said to a man in the City, 'See, you know how you began; you used to tend the sheep'. Ah, I had forgotten that! Yes, but that is a fact; you used to call in and number the cattle night by night. Who brought you out of all that obscurity and set you in bright Jerusalem, David? Speak thy benefactor's name; is this the doing of the Son of Jesse, or is it the doing of the Trinity? Forms have changed, and forms always will change, but the mystery still prevails and abounds. Life is always a mystery; it is often a mystery of darkness, but it can by the grace of God he turned into a mystery of light. Even now they are taking a sunbeam to pieces and trying to find out exactly what it is composed of, putting all the elements back again and so forth. And they cannot tell what life is. No man can define light, no man can define love, no man can define life, no man can define God.
III. What we want is personal testimony. 'They went through the flood on foot.' I want the Church to rise up in all its memberships and each member to say, 'So did I: I have been in floods that threatened to overwhelm me, and just as my faith was giving way the flood disappeared, and I walked through on dry land. I have done it. I was dead—yes; I am alive—true.' How so? 'A great movement for which there is no name.' So many people are geographers, and so few are astronomers. There are people who even believe in geology, but they cannot rise to astronomy. Now it is the astronomic that rules the whole.
—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. VI. p. 126.
The Contradictions of Life
There are many lessons in that verse. They are filled up with the truth of the leadership of God. But I want to take one simple thought and send it out. It is the apparent contradictions of our life. For fire and water: are they not very opposite. Life, then, has need of opposites, and life advances through its contradictions.
I. Think of life's common experiences first. I take it there is no one here but has known the music and the light of joy. And then come sorrow and suffering and loss, and gloom for the sunshine and weeping for the laughter. And here is the flat opposite of joy. And if God was in that, how can He be in this, unless our Leader contradicts Himself? But the strange thing about Jesus Christ is this, that He has saved us by being a man of sorrow, yet He was always speaking of His joy. And the strange thing about the Christian Gospel is, that joy is its keynote, joy is its glad refrain; and yet it comes to me, to you, and whispers, My son, My daughter, take up thy cross and bear it. Is the Gospel in opposition to the Gospel? Nay friend, not that: a house divided against itself is doomed. But it is through the strange antagonisms of the heart, and all the teaching of a diverse guidance that we are brought at last to our wealthy place.
II. But passing from these common experiences of life, I note that we cannot open our New Testament but the same element of contradiction meets us. I think, for example, of that great word of Jesus, 'Come unto Me, and I will give you rest'. Now what is the very opposite of rest? The very opposite of rest is struggle. And yet I cannot open my New Testament but I find that the follower of Christ is called to war. 'Fight the good fight of faith,' says the Apostle. I cannot explain these contradictions, but I live through them and they bear me on. For somehow I have never peace except I struggle, and I cannot struggle if I am not at peace.
III. Now come a little deeper into the realm of thought. There is one truth that is a little in abeyance nowadays: I mean the truth of the sovereignty of God. We dwell so lovingly upon God's fatherhood that we are almost in danger of forgetting His sovereignty. Now tell me in absolute opposition to that foreordained will—what stands? You answer in a moment—the free will of man. If I am free to will as I believe, and not the helpless creature of necessity, what comes of the pre-determining will of God? Am I to give up my moral freedom? Heaven guard me, never! And am I to cast the sovereignty of God to be swirled and scattered by the winds of heaven? Nay, God forbid, life were a poor thing then. But I am to remember that I am going through fire and water, that God may bring me to a wealthy place.
—G. H. Morrison, Flood-Tide, p. 159.
References.—LXVI. 12.—H. L. Thompson, The Church of St. Mary the Virgin, p. 121. LXVI. 16.—C. J. Vaughan, Harrow Sermons (1st Series), p. 388. LXVI. 18.—E. J. Boyce, Parochial Sermons, p. 18. LXVI. 20.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 145. LXVI.—International Critical Commentary, vol. ii. p. 86.
The Connexion Between Sanctity and Salubrity
Sing forth the honour of his name: make his praise glorious.
Say unto God, How terrible art thou in thy works! through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies submit themselves unto thee.
All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing to thy name. Selah.
Come and see the works of God: he is terrible in his doing toward the children of men.
He turned the sea into dry land: they went through the flood on foot: there did we rejoice in him.
He ruleth by his power for ever; his eyes behold the nations: let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah.
O bless our God, ye people, and make the voice of his praise to be heard:
Which holdeth our soul in life, and suffereth not our feet to be moved.
For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried.
Thou broughtest us into the net; thou laidst affliction upon our loins.
Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.
I will go into thy house with burnt offerings: I will pay thee my vows,
Which my lips have uttered, and my mouth hath spoken, when I was in trouble.
I will offer unto thee burnt sacrifices of fatlings, with the incense of rams; I will offer bullocks with goats. Selah.
Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.
I cried unto him with my mouth, and he was extolled with my tongue.
If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:
But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer.
Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me.