Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
O LORD God, to whom vengeance belongeth; O God, to whom vengeance belongeth, shew thyself.Psalm 94:9-10
These verses assert that in due time God will act, for He cannot be otherwise than a God of knowledge, deep in whose heart counsels of inviolable righteousness lie hidden. He is always cognisant of what goes on in the world, and especially heedful of the cries and supplications of His own people. These acts of oppression, done to the fatherless and the widow, do not elude His notice. Drop by drop He counts the innocent blood that falls upon the green world He has made and bends His ear to each sigh of the downtrodden. There is a spiritual property in every sense with which the human body is informed, and that property has its immeasurable counterpart in the nature of the Godhead.
I. These words imply that if man possesses the attributes of personality, man's Maker must also possess them in an enhanced degree. Hence arises the sure confidence that a Divine judgment draws nigh which will banish the wrongs under which the faithful groan. It has ever been so in the past. Righteous acts that are not the outcome of a living and a righteous personality are inconceivable. The power that makes for righteousness must see and hear and know, and then set itself to unflinching judgment.
II. The Psalmist affirms that the distinction between right and wrong which God imprints upon the nations through the providences of history has its primal type in the mind of God Himself. The agelong discipline of the generations is the sign of an intense moral life in the Great King of the earth which vitalizes that discipline. Many of us habitually disregard the conscience, and yet at the same time feel that it is the truest and most trustworthy of all the faculties with which our beings have been equipped.
III. We need to indoctrinate ourselves with the argument of the Psalmist, for there is a tendency to depersonalize God, sometimes on grounds directly opposite to those which influence the advocates of a materialistic philosophy. Many thinkers assume that the special attribute of personality is here in the body rather than in the spirit, and that we make God less than infinite by adopting these anthropomorphic modes of speech. It is true our knowledge of God is approximate, but if we negative our approximations by saying that God is neither personal nor impersonal, we make the conception absolutely powerless, futile as a random guess. The lowliest and most limited creature into whom the qualities of personality have come is greater than galaxies of impersonal suns.
IV. The man who has become honestly and intelligently possessed with the truth that God is a person will find every subsequent article of the Christian Creed comparatively easy of acceptance. We cannot go far wrong in our theology if we hold that God is a person, and he who thinks the world can do without theology is a trifler whose folly is beyond ordinary expletives. Not a little obscurity has its beginnings in looseness upon this cardinal subject. Admit that God is a free, conscious, intelligent, self-determining person, and if you have the logical outlook, it will soon be evident that you have committed yourself to the sum and substance of the Christian faith.
—T. G. Selby, The God of the Frail, p. 22.
'He that planted the ear, shall He not hear? He that formed the eye, shall He not see? He that teacheth man knowledge, shall not He know?' These verses made a strong impression on the mind of Sophia the Electress of Hanover, a woman of decided mental power, and were adopted with approbation by her friend the philosopher Leibnitz in his opposition to Atheism. The principle on which he reasoned was, that as the stream cannot rise above its fountain, intelligence in man implies an intelligent source. Thought must come from thought. Descartes had already given expression to the same idea in his Meditations, III.: 'Now it is manifest by the light of nature that there must be as much reality in the efficient cause as in the effect; for whence could the effect draw its reality but from the cause? And how could the cause communicate the power to it, if it had it not in itself? And from this it follows, not only that nothing can be produced from nothing, but also that what is more perfect cannot be a result of, and dependent on, what is less perfect.'
References.—XCIV. 12.—J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. ii. p. 219. Bishop Temple, Rugby Sermons (2nd Series), p. 39. XCIV. 16.—J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. ii. p. 219.
The Christian's Hidden Sources of Delight
Our thoughts form the hidden sources of our lives, whether for good or for evil.
I. I am sure it will be good for us if we can find the track along which ran David's thoughts which gave him such great power and such sources of delight that his wonderful career was possible. The first of these thoughts of David he makes very clear to us in this Psalm. It was the thought of an immanent God in the world, one who hears and sees and cares. 'He that planted the ear, shall He not hear? He that formed the eye, shall He not see?' Here is the starting-point of David's hidden source of joy. God is in his world. He made it and He rules it. Here is the source of courage that will never grow weary.
II. Another thought that was a constant source of delight to David was the conviction that God was the defender of those who trusted Him. He cries out in this Psalm, 'The Lord will not cast off His people, neither will He forsake His inheritance. But judgment shall return unto unrighteousness: and all the upright in heart shall follow it.' And in another one of his great Psalms, having this same thought in mind, David says, 'The Lord shall keep thee from all evil; He shall keep thy soul'.
III. Another thought that gave David great delight was his discovery that much of the sorrow and trial which he experienced was not punishment, but chastening and discipline. David had got hold of this great thought of God's chastening love, and it was a source of delight to him; and it cannot help but be a source of perpetual delight to us if we will treasure this thought in our hearts and keep it to live by day and day.
IV. Another thought that gave David delight in his hour of darkness, so far as his outward circumstances were concerned, was the thought which he cherished that in the time of great emergency he could depend upon God's mercy. His heart rejoiced in the mercy of the God who comes to the rescue of the man in peril, whose feet have slipped and will go to disaster without help. It is the glory of our Christianity that it has a word about mercy to the man whose feet have slipped.
—L. R. Banks, Sermons Which Have Won Souls, p. 231.
The Cure for Care
This Psalm is a cry for help against the insolence and cruelty of Israel's oppression, evidently at a time when the nation has been under the heel of heathen conquerors. There is a Divine purpose to be wrought out through all the struggles and the sorrow, a purpose of moral discipline.
I. The Psalmist questions his soul by his comforting faith. With spiritual insight he sees something of the meaning of discipline, and sees the hand of God in the dark passage through the cloud as well as in the brightness of the ultimate deliverance. He sees that if the Lord had not been his help all would have been ended long since. 'When I said, My foot hath slipped, Thy mercy, O Lord, was holding me up.' It is a vivid figure of compassing grace. Amid wickedness, rampant and triumphant, enmity without and trouble within, he entered into peace through the assurance of God's presence.
II. Times alter and circumstances change, but the essentials of life remain, and this cry of a wounded heart is the human cry, and we can interpret the Psalm for our own individual needs and personal situation. The way to peace for us today, as in this echo of a long past time, is in the assurance of God. This is the one need of man's heart. There can be no abiding consolation and no complete solution of the riddle of life, no safe refuge, except somewhere within where the soul can find rest. If life is meaningless, empty of any spiritual purpose, the world is a place of despair as much to us as the terrible situation depicted by the Psalmist of old. We, like him, and as much as him, need the comfort of God's love for the multitude of our cares. There is nothing the heart of man needs more than a message of courage and hope and confidence. And where is such a message possible except as a message of faith? The world is built as if for discipline, and its one need is comfort of some sort.
III. The only cure for care is the cure of faith. What is this faith which has such magical power? It simply means to fall back upon God, to trust to His love and live in the secret of His presence. We learn to cast our care upon God when we know that He cares for us, and this is the meaning of our Communion. It has many a message and many a lesson, but its deepest message and sweetest lesson is that of comfort. The deepest lesson of Holy Communion, however we interpret it, is the Real Presence of Christ. What trouble or distress is there in life that will not be dissipated by the light of that faith? The remedy for care is to know the love of God in Christ, and that remedy is open to us, not fitfully and casually, but always and everywhere.
—Hugh Black, Christ's Service of Love, p. 42.
References.—XCIV. 19.—A. Tucker, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xix. p. 510. J. Bunting, Sermons, vol. ii. pp. 214, 229. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv. No. 883. Ibid. vol. xix. No. 1116. J. S. Boone, Sermons, p. 23. J. Thomas, Myrtle Street Pulpit, vol. ii. p. 305. XCIV.—International Critical Commentary, vol. ii. p. 287. Expositor (2nd Series), vol. vi. p. 273.
Lift up thyself, thou judge of the earth: render a reward to the proud.
LORD, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked triumph?
How long shall they utter and speak hard things? and all the workers of iniquity boast themselves?
They break in pieces thy people, O LORD, and afflict thine heritage.
They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless.
Yet they say, The LORD shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it.
Understand, ye brutish among the people: and ye fools, when will ye be wise?
He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see?
He that chastiseth the heathen, shall not he correct? he that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know?
The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity.
Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O LORD, and teachest him out of thy law;
That thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit be digged for the wicked.
For the LORD will not cast off his people, neither will he forsake his inheritance.
But judgment shall return unto righteousness: and all the upright in heart shall follow it.
Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?
Unless the LORD had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence.
When I said, My foot slippeth; thy mercy, O LORD, held me up.
In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.
Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law?
They gather themselves together against the soul of the righteous, and condemn the innocent blood.
But the LORD is my defence; and my God is the rock of my refuge.
And he shall bring upon them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness; yea, the LORD our God shall cut them off.