Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. ITS GENERAL LESSONS.
1. It tells of present earthly troubles. They were such as the returning exiles had met with, for Babylon was not the alone place of exile. There had been weary wanderings in the barren, waterless, and burning deserts; cruel and hopeless imprisonment; sickness nigh unto death; perils by sea (cf. Jeremiah 16:15; Jeremiah 40:12; Daniel 9:7). And it repeatedly declares the real cause of human troubles - the wickedness of men.
2. It warrants our praying for deliverance from such troubles. It tells how all the troubled ones did this. And, indeed, it is an instinct in man to thus pray.
3. It promises that God will answer such prayers. "He delivered them" is four times affirmed (vers. 6, 13, 19, 28).
4. It demands that therefore men should praise the Lord. It expresses a longing desire that men should do this, but also a tacit confession that many of them would not. These are the lessons that lie on the surface of the psalm. But are they true? Consider, therefore -
II. THE QUESTION OF THEIR TRUTHFULNESS.
1. The psalmist had no doubt about it. But in our day many doubt it much. They say all these troubles come to men now, and instead of deliverance such as is here affirmed as ever taking place in answer to prayer, there is in the majority of such cases no deliverance at all.
2. Calvin argues (see Perowne, in loc.) that no doubt the most do perish, but, then, all deserved to; therefore if any are saved it is by the great mercy of God: God was not bound to save any of them. But how can any thoughtful soul be satisfied with such reply? It is like Calvin, but all unlike the teaching of Christ.
3. The true reply is, that God answers prayer in different ways. He will ever give the best thing - of which he only can be the Judge-but that may not be the thing we cry for and when he does literally deliver, it is rarely by interfering with natural laws, but rather is it by suggesting to men's minds how they may work out their own deliverance. He teaches them here to use the laws of nature so as to win what they desire; but he does not miraculously set those laws aside. It is true God ever answers sincere prayer, but not that he does so in the literal, direct way which the psalmist believed. But if we allow ourselves, as we surely may, to regard these distresses as patterns and images of spiritual distresses, then the declarations of the psalm are absolutely true. Therefore consider -
III. ITS SPIRITUAL SUGGESTIONS.
1. That in these earthly troubles we have such as are spiritual faithfully represented.
2. That we may and should pray for deliverance from them.
3. That such prayer shall be surely answered.
4. That then it is our bounden duty to praise the Lord. "Whoso is wise will consider these things, and," etc. (ver. 43). - S.C.
I. GOD HAD ANSWERED THE CRY OF THE JEWS IN EXILE, AND RESTORED THEM TO THEIR OWN COUNTRY. (Vers. 2, 8, 9.) They were called on to give thanks for thou wonders, and to remember that "he filleth the hungry soul with good." God is working toward the deliverance of all enslaved nations. This thought is amplified in vers. 10-16, with special reference to the sins that had plunged them into such helpless affliction, and therefore how much they should praise God for loving-kindness!
II. THE EMPHATIC THOUGHT IN VERS. 17-22 IS THAT GOD DELIVERS WICKED MEN, WHEN THEY CALL UPON HIM, OUT OF THE VERY SHADOWS OF DEATH. God pities transgressors, and loves them with an infinite compassion in their terrors and sufferings. He sendeth his word - the message of his mercy - and healeth them; delivers them "from their graves."
III. Another example: HE DELIVERS THE SAILOR. FROM THE STORMS OF THE SEA. (Vers. 23-32.) Wonderful description of a storm and its subsidence. "Then are they glad because they be quiet, and he leadeth them to their desired haven." The psalmist is writing poetry under the inspiration of a devout faith; and not science, discussing the unchangeable laws of material nature. The preacher must do his utmost to reconcile poetry and science in the theology he teaches.
IV. Now the current of thought changes its direction, but only for a moment. GOD SOMETIMES MAKES THE WICKED AN EXAMPLE OF HIS TEMPORAL JUDGMENTS. (Vers. 33, 34.) But this thought is uncongenial, and is soon changed again for the thought of God's mercy. The wilderness is crowned with cities; and the poor and humble are raised to the condition of princes, and the rich and the proud overthrown. The question at the close most suggestive, that it is only the observant and the wise that can understand the loving-kindnesses of God; only they that can approach to the solution of the great problems of God's providence. - S.
I. GOD'S CLAIM ON THE GROUND OF THE GREAT REDEMPTION. That was the deliverance of Israel from the Egyptian bondage. Of it Israel was ever kept in mind by the Passover rite; by Divine revelations; by appeals of psalmist and prophet. It was a great redemption in view of
(1) the distress from which it delivered;
(2) the wisdom and power displayed in it;
(3) the issues to which it led.
Israel was bound to regard itself as a redeemed people, bound in allegiance to its Redeemer, who is to be served by thankful, loving obedience.
II. GOD'S CLAIM ON THE GROUND OF THE MANY REDEMPTIONS.
1. These appear to view in the wilderness-journey, when again and again God delivered the people from their circumstances, their enemies, and themselves.
2. They appear to view in the period of the Judges, when God graciously responded to penitence and prayer, and raised up national deliverers.
3. They appear to view in the period of the prophets, when God held back again and again his threatened judgments. The true reading of each individual life shows the same ever delivering, rescuing, redeeming God.
III. GOD'S CLAIM ON THE GROUND OF HIS LATEST REDEMPTION. That, to the psalmist, was the rescue from the Babylonish captivity. A wonderful restoration considered as to
(1) its time,
(2) unexpected manner,
(3) important issues,
(4) fulfillment of promises.
The feature of it that most pleased the psalmist was the gathering of the scattered Israelites, and the uniting of representatives from all the tribes to form the new nation.
IV. GOD'S CLAIM ON THE GROUND OF HIS SPIRITUAL REDEMPTION. That which was wrought by the agency of the Lord Jesus Christ. The soul-redemption, of which all other redemptions could be only the foreshadowing and illustration. Jesus reveals God the Redeemer. - R.T.
I. INQUIRE AS TO THE SOUL.
1. The psalm tells of ransomed exiles, of redeemed Israelites, and recounts the sad but varied experiences through which they had passed. Some had been wanderers, some captives, some stricken with mortal sickness, some all but lost at sea.
2. But in all ages of the Church this psalm has been taken as telling not merely of the literal facts which it records, but as setting forth in vivid and varied way the history of every soul as yet unsaved. It is, then, of the soul not yet saved that this fourfold portraiture is given.
II. LOOK AT THE PORTRAITS.
1. That of the wanderer. Out of the right way, in the wilderness, and going astray there; very miserable since he can find no home or rest; famine stares him in the face, and his soul faints within him. Is not this a true description of such as are unsaved? Every detail answers to his experience and condition. "All we like sheep have gone astray." Wanderers from God, and weary because of it, - such is the unsaved soul.
2. That of the captive. He is shut up in some dark dungeon, fettered hand and foot, doomed to die; he has brought it all on himself by his rebellion; the weight of his trouble has utterly east him down; he lies prostrate on the ground, without help or hope. Here, again, the real resemblance between this portrait and the unsaved soul can be readily seen. Many such can bear testimony that they have been through it all. Christ speaks of such as captives, held fast behind prison doors and bound (Luke 4:18). Then:
3. That of the man stricken with mortal disease. Fools are they, and not simply unhappy, for these also have brought their misery on themselves; they are sinners as well as foolish. But now, so stricken with sickness are they, that they turn from all food, and are at the point of death. Sin is such a disease, and they are fools who bring it on themselves; and the effects of it are just what is said, and there is but a step betwixt them and death.
4. The storm-driven mariner ready to perish. Again we have a portrait of the soul, so driven and tossed by the tempests, trials, and storms of life, that he has almost made shipwreck. We may be going on in our ordinary pursuits when these dreadful tempests rise; and then, at our wit's end, not knowing what to do, our soul is melted because of trouble. Oat of Christ, we are ever exposed to such storms; for his word alone can still the tempest, and bring us to the haven where we would be.
III. OBSERVE THE POINTS OF DIFFERENCE AND RESEMBLANCE.
1. Of difference. The first tells of the unrest and failure of the soul to find satisfaction apart from God. The second, of the awful power, oppression, and cruelty of sin. "O wretched man that I am! who," etc.? (Romans 7:24). The third, of the paralysis of all spiritual energies, and the drawing ever nearer death of all the faculties of the soul, which sin causes. The fourth, of the liability to sudden and overwhelming destruction of the soul unpiloted by Christ.
2. Of resemblance. All such souls have to suffer. That suffering reaches extremity ere succor comes. Nor does it come then until prayed for; but then it does come and according to the need of each. The Lord alone sends it. The effect of it is ever to wake up praise; to make the soul long that others may praise, and to grieve that they do not. - S.C.
I. INFINITELY DESIRABLE. The psalmist longs that they should do this; he seems eagerly waiting for that outburst or' praise which he feels ought to be forthcoming. And it is thus to be desired:
1. Because it is so right. If this could not be said of it, nothing else that might be urged could justify such longing after it. But this can be said. For God's goodness deserves men's praise. Think how great, how varied, how constant, how all undeserved, how costly, is the goodness of God to men, and how it follows them continually all the days of their life here, and then goes with them into the eternal life. If a fellow man have shown to us, when in distress, great kindness, we are not slow to acknowledge it; or if we were, the verdict of our fellow-men would at once condemn us.
2. It so brightens our life. That which darkens life is the dwelling on its unhappy events, or on those which we think unhappy. But if we would brighten life, we have to reverse this process. Collect the happy facts of life, and let memory recollect and ponder them. It will be found that however great the sum of our sorrows may be, the sum of our joys is greater.
3. It gives us courage in the conflict with the social evils of the day. There are many such. They are demanding men's attention more and more. The bitter cry of multitudes of our fellow men can be no longer stifled or ignored. And good men are setting themselves to see what can be done to remedy these wrongs. But every one knows that it is much easier to point out a wrong than to find a remedy. For there are so many who profit by the wrong, that they will never, if they can help, let go their hold of it. All man's selfishness rises up to guard it, and its defenses are strong indeed. But what can so encourage us to assail these strongholds of wrong as the conviction, wrought by the habit of praising the Lord for his goodness, that he whom we know to be good cannot but be against such wrong, and with those who seek to remedy it? There will be heard in their souls the ancient stirring cry, "Deus vult!" and like as that emboldened men in the days of the Crusades, so for this far more important and difficult crusade it will serve the same blessed office of emboldening the hearts of those who undertake it. But such custom is -
II. LAMENTABLY ABSENT. The text is both a confession and a bitter complaint of this fact. But why is this? Wherefore is it that men act towards God in a way which would cover them with shame were they to act so in regard to their fellow-men? The very words of the text suggest not a little of the answer.
1. Many do not believe in the Lord. They will not absolutely deny his existence, but they are not at all certain of it. And such uncertainty paralyzes praise. They, of course, believe in some "force," some efficient power, which produces what they see. They cannot help believing in that. But what it is they do not pretend to say. They are materialists, evolutionists, agnostics, but no more.
2. Others question the "goodness for which men should praise the Lord. They are bewildered at many aspects of the natural world and of the social world, that seem to throw grave doubt on that goodness. And when they look within and see what they themselves are, how evil and wrong; and when they listen to what not a few theologians tell them of God, and the doom he destines for the mass of men, a very sea of doubt and misgiving surges over them, not to say swallows them up.
3. And others deny any wonderful works." They do not believe in the supernatural, and all miracle is but myth. They believe only in the reign of law, and that things happen not in any "wonderful" way, but according to fixed, orderly, and ascertained law. They have a natural explanation for everything, and need no Divine intervention to account for aught that has occurred. They believe in "wonderful works" done by "the children of men," by their genius, skill, daring, but not in any done for them. Such are some of the silencers of men's praise and gratitude. But, whatever the cause, the effect is most sad. Man's own self becomes, to him who believes not in God, the greatest and most important being he knows, and what but hideous selfishness can follow? And he who doubts - as, alas! so many do -
"That he and we and all men move
III. IS EARNESTLY TO BE SOUGHT AFTER. But how may men be made to praise the Lord for his goodness - how? This is, indeed, an important question, and almost as difficult as important. Not, we think, by their simply going over the mercies they have received, because, unless they believe them to be God's mercies, the mere enumeration will do no good - will probably only foster pride. But we believe that St. John supplies the true answer. He says, "We love him, because he first loved us." This is the genesis of the spirit of praise, its true point and spring - our seeing and believing God's love to us in Christ our Lord. So, then, would we quicken this spirit of praise in ourselves, let us get back whence it first began; and would we awaken it in others, the best, we believe the only way, is to -
"Tell them the old, old story
1. God gave them the lands of the heathen (see Psalm 105:44).
2. God scattered them in the lands (see Psalm 106:27).
3. God gathers them from the lands (see Psalm 107:3). The thirty-two verses, or rather those from ver. 4 to ver. 32, contain four mental pictures:
(1) of pilgrims in a barren land of thirst and distress;
(2) of captives languishing in a captivity, which is the punishment of sin;
(3) of foolish men smitten by God's hand with sickness, even unto death;
(4) of sailors in extremity of danger on the sea. God is seen in his general relations to all, and in his special relations to each.
I. GOD THE REFRESHER; or, the pilgrim's Provider and Guide. Two sources for his figures are before the mind of the psalmist.
1. The old wilderness-journey of the Israelites.
2. The recent desert-journey of the exiles from Babylon to Jerusalem. Both presented peculiarities of difficulty, trial, and need. In both God had most graciously overcome difficulties, and secured all needed supplies. In neither had his people wanted any good thing. This will readily be illustrated by details of these journeys.
II. GOD THE LIBERATOR; or, the captive's Deliverer. Here the same two sources provide the figures. Once Israel was captive in Egypt, and then God brought his people out "with a high hand and outstretched arm." - Recently they had been captive in Babylon, and the interweavings of Divine providence, which led to their return to their own land, were no less wonderful and no less gracious. There is a higher sense in which God, through his Son Jesus Christ, now gives "liberty to the captives."
III. GOD THE HEALER; Or, the willful man's Savior. The association of this figure is not so easy to trace. There is very probable allusion to those times of pestilence in the wilderness-journey which followed on the people's sin; and the people were led into sin by foolish, willful individuals, such as Korah or Dathan. But even when suffering was direct judgment on sin, God magnified his mercy in healing and restoring.
IV. GOD THE CONTROLLER; or, the sailor's Preserver. Israel seems to have had no mercantile associations with the sea before the time of Solomon; but in the time of captivity the Israelites were scattered abroad, and engaged in commerce in all lands, so sea-figures had become familiar. But the reference here may be typical; the perils of the sea picturing all kinds of human peril that are beyond man's control, but within God's control. For what he is to his people, we are bidden to thank and praise the Lord. - R.T.
I. PRAYER FOR TEMPORAL GOOD IS NATURAL. It is a natural impulse which every one feels; even the atheist feels it in the time of shipwreck. It is natural to man
(1) as a creature, having creature-wants for which it cannot itself secure the supply;
(2) as a child, who has a stronger impression of material than of spiritual need. All natural impulses have a sound basis. There is that in God which responds to them.
II. PRAYER FOR TEMPORAL GOOD IS REASONABLE. Because we can see that forces are continually acting upon and modifying forces (as when I raise my arm, and make vital force counteract the natural force of gravitation); and no man has any right to say that prayer is not a higher force, which can modify, or lead to the modifying, of both vital and physical forces. Prayer may set moving the Divine forces which control and readjust the working of the material forces. It is often said that natural law never changes; but it needs to be seen that natural laws are always cross-working, and even preverting, each other's working It cannot be unreasonable to conceive of the Divine will as a controlling law, working in material spheres.
III. PRAYER FOR TEMPORAL GOOD IS ACCEPTABLE. This may be shown by several considerations.
1. God, in every age, has asked it of man. Referable to outward needs, he says, "For all this will I be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them."
2. Man, in every age, has prayed about such things. Illustrate by instances taken from each period of Bible history. There are supreme cases in which men have even given up working, prayed and waited for God to act. It is unfair to give such cases no consideration.
3. God has, in every age, interfered in men's lives, in order to answer their prayers. "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard, and saved him out of all his troubles." - R.T.
fool of the Bible is usually the strongly self-willed man, who accepts no guidance or control, but persists in following the devices and desires of his own heart." Such a man is sure to bring trouble upon himself. It is true that all men are tempted into self-will at times; but the case introduced here is that of men who are persistent in their self-will, and let it fashion their course of conduct, their habit of life.
I. AFFLICTIONS ARE THE NATURAL CONSEQUENCE OF WILFULNESS. Because the willful spirit is sure to lead to acts which involve trouble. The world is ordered according to the will of God; and it keeps the order when man's will is in harmony with God's will. Illustrate by the peace of a country, and welfare of all its inhabitants, when the will of the people and the will of the governing body are in harmony. Every self-willed citizen spoils the harmony for the whole, and brings trouble on himself. So in God's kingdom. The self-willed (foolish) man is a disturbing element; and the king, all law-abiders, and all the arrangements of the kingdom, must be against him. He cannot get his own way; he must "bring affliction on himself," and not on himself alone. It is a searching and humbling inquiry - How many of our earthly afflictions are the direct result - the natural consequence - of our willful persistence in wrongdoings? The humiliation of the review of life is the discovery of how many troubles were our own fault, and might have been avoided by mastering our self-will. "Many sicknesses are the direct result of foolish acts. Thoughtless and lustful men, by drunkenness, gluttony, and the indulgence of their passions, fill their bodies with diseases. Men, by a course of transgression, afflict themselves, and are fools for their pains."
II. AFFLICTIONS ARE THE DIVINE AGENCY FOR BRINGING WILFUL ONES TO REASON. Perhaps it is true that God's afflictions are never "judgments," in the sense of mere vindicatory punishments. But they are not always "judgments" in the sense of "chastisements." They are - certainly they are for the persistently willful - "judgments" in the sense of "humiliations." Their design is to break men away from their self-confidence. And therefore the affliction is so directly connected with the sin, and men are compelled, humiliatingly, to admit that they have brought their troubles on themselves. - R.T.
Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2; Hebrews 13:15). The call to thanksgiving is the refrain of the palm. Man is seen to gain no blessing save through the ministry of him who is the "Author and Giver of every good and perfect gift." And man's sin is seen to be restraining his lips, and failing to make due recognition of "grace abounding." A life full of God's benedictions should be a life full of God's praise. In this text the general duty is presented under two figures.
I. THANKSGIVING AS A SACRIFICE. The peculiarity of a sacrifice is that it is a silent act. It is something a man does which has its own voice, and need not be accompanied with any words. When the old Jew brought his animal to the priest, according to the rules of the Mosaic ritual, he did not need to say anything by way of explanation. The priest perfectly understood what he meant. Some act of Divine mercy was filling him with thankfulness, and his offering found for it expression. Philip Henry puts this sharply: "Thanksgiving is a good thing, thanksgiving is a better." The self-offered in sacrifice speaks our gratitude to the listening ear of God. A man can show himself grateful by his manner of life. Bouar prays -
"Fill thou my life, O Lord my God, "Not for the lip of praise alone, II. THANKSGIVING AS A TESTIMONY. "Tell out his works with gladness." Here thanksgiving is a voiceful act. "I will not refrain my lips, O Lord, thou knowest." "Praise is the only employment in which self finds no part. In praise we go out of ourselves, and think only of him to whom we offer it. It is the most purely disinterested of all services." - R.T.
"Not for the lip of praise alone, II. THANKSGIVING AS A TESTIMONY. "Tell out his works with gladness." Here thanksgiving is a voiceful act. "I will not refrain my lips, O Lord, thou knowest." "Praise is the only employment in which self finds no part. In praise we go out of ourselves, and think only of him to whom we offer it. It is the most purely disinterested of all services." - R.T.
II. THANKSGIVING AS A TESTIMONY. "Tell out his works with gladness." Here thanksgiving is a voiceful act. "I will not refrain my lips, O Lord, thou knowest." "Praise is the only employment in which self finds no part. In praise we go out of ourselves, and think only of him to whom we offer it. It is the most purely disinterested of all services." - R.T.
I. THE PILOT. He is the Lord Jesus Christ. We need his aid. Some think they can manage well enough without him, and hence refuse his aid; but no ship ever yet came safe to port without that aid. Receive him, therefore. His knowledge is perfect. His wisdom never errs. His power is omnipotent. His terms are such as all can comply with - trust and obey. His authority is from God. There are many pretended pilots; he alone is sent of God. He never fails.
II. THE PASSAGE. "So he bringeth them," etc. How?
1. By his Holy Spirit he guides the soul.
2. By his Word. "Thy Word is a lamp unto," etc. (Psalm 119:105).
3. By his gracious providence, sending now one influence and now another to further our course.
4. By the ministries of his Church - the means of grace, prayer, sacraments, etc.
III. THE PORT. It is our desired haven. Desired because there is:
3. Joy and happiness.
4. Reward. - S.C.
unrest of the sea. This is reflected in many of the Bible references to it; and this has always struck both poetic and pious minds.
I. THE FASCINATION OF REST. To man it is the supreme idea of heaven; it is the perfection of bliss on earth. That not so much because of toil, as because of change and trouble. The rest man seeks is not rest from work, but rest from worry. The activity of work is, for healthy minds and bodies, the truest rest. But uncertainty, change, anxiety, make us long for the moral rest, which can only come when God's will is no longer checked by man's. It is not the rest of the grave man wants; it is the rest of the "desired haven" - the rest of the moral issue of life. Every man is, according to his own idea, moving towards and into rest. Alas! that so many make shipwreck.
II. THE SYMBOL OF REST. A "desired haven." Harbor after a long and stormy voyage. "In the fierce gales of November or March, when the shrieking blasts drive furiously up the channel, and the huge mountain-billows, green and white, open threatening graves on every side, how welcome would be a safe harbor, easy of access, and placed at a part of the coast which else would be unsheltered for many leagues on either side!" (Gosse). "The stately ships go on, to the harbor under the hill" (Tennyson). The point suggestive of practical teachings is thrown out by the Prayer-book Version. Our "desired haven" is, "the haven where we would be." It is the realization of our life-objects, of our hopes; and so we are led to discuss men's life-aims. Their rest, when they gain it, too often proves to be no rest. He only reaches rest that is rest indeed, who has voyaged life's seas in hope of entering at last the harbor of God. - R.T.
commonplace their life was. Without such special experiences they might take up the notion that they were out of the spheres of special Divine mercies; and so the didactic psalmist puts in a word for these: in a few skilful sentences he sketches ordinary, commonplace life, and shows God's relation to it. The things briefly mentioned suggest -
I. THE COMMONPLACE ADVERSITIES OF LIFE. Such are the difficulties of the seasons, the rains, the floods, the drought, in their relation to agricultural life.
II. THE COMMONPLACE ENTERPRISES OF LIFE. Working for a living, tillage, building, planting, tending cattle, etc.
III. THE COMMONPLACE DISASTERS OF LIFE. Accidents, diseases, plagues, etc.
IV. THE COMMONPLACE ENMITIES OF LIFE. For few men pass through many years without suffering from the mischief-making schemes of those who, by reason of envy or masterfulness, make themselves their enemies. The psalmist urges that God is quits as truly in the commonplace as in the unusual. He is working through our everyday life experience some high and gracious moral end. And therefore every man should be quick to observe the "loving-kindness of the Lord," and ever ready to "praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men." - R.T.
I. WHAT IS IT?
1. "These things here spoken of are not merely the gracious deliverances which were granted in answer to the people's cry, but the terrible troubles which led to that cry unto the Lord. The deliverances are but parts of these things.
2. And often there is no deliverance. The weary wanderer sinks down on the sands and dies; the captive perishes in his dungeon; the man stricken with mortal sickness enters those gates of death to which he had drawn near, and does not come back; the storm-beaten ship goes down with all on board.
3. Deliverances arc the exertion, not the rule. In these cases is there no loving-kindness of the Lord? Some say there is not, and they further say God is not either.
4. But these things arc part of what we are to observe. No doubt they do make the loving-kindness of the Lord difficult to understand. It seems as if the observing of them were just the thing which would hinder, not help, that understanding. But we are to look at the psalm as a whole; not at the deliverances only, nor the troubles only, but at all together.
5. So looking, we shall see that the loving-kindness of the Lord is his bringing our heart, our will, to be at one with himself. This is his great, his blessed, and most loving gift. When it is wanting, there comes rebellion and sin of all kinds, and following close after that, trouble and sorrow; but when it is present, then these things depart. When it is absent, no amount of earthly good satisfies or can make really blessed; when it is present, no amount of earthly sorrow can rob the soul of its peace and trust. This, then, is the loving-kindness of the Lord - the heart that always says to God, Thy will be done."
II. WHAT THIS LOVING-KINDNESS DEMANDS.
1. That the rebellious heart should be brought down and humbled. (Cf. ver. 12.) In each of the scenes so vividly portrayed this is what is seen: the stout self-trusting and self-satisfied heart has disappeared, and a meek and lowly one has come instead.
2. God must insist on this; for until it is brought about, there is no way open for peace with God. Will we not see this at once, and take on us the Savior's yoke, and learn of him who was meek and lowly in heart, and so find rest in our souls?
III. WHAT IT WILL SURELY DO. It will take measures for the accomplishment of that which is so essential. There are two methods by which God's loving-kindness brings down the proud heart.
1. By his Holy Spirit. He convinces of sin, withers up the pride and self-sufficiency which lurk within us, and leads us in all humility to the feet of the Lord. He is ever striving to do this. Happy are they who yield to him. But this may fail. Therefore:
2. His providence is set to work. The consuming fire of God's terrible punishments burns up the rebelliousness which nothing else will purge away. The stout heart is made to yield, and the obstinate will to give way.
3. But the ordeal is fearful. Nothing but the loving-kindness of the Lord will hold men down to it. Let us not compel him thus to deal with us. Let us accept the yoke of wood, lest he put upon us the yoke of iron.
1. Love orders our lives. That is the meaning not only of the gentle but also of the awful, ways of God.
2. Love must have the obedient heart.
3. The wise only will see all this, and they must "observe these things" in order to understand. It was the secret of Christ's peace, for he understood the loving-kindness of the Lord. - S.C.
I. THE LOVING-KINDNESS OF GOD IS NOT APPARENT TO EVERYBODY. Many are stumbling over the severities of God's dealings, and, indeed, over the presence of evil, in the senses of wrong and calamity, in his world. How can the God of love stand aloof, and permit the misery of the earth? How can the doom of vast masses of humanity be consistent with Divine love and Fatherhood? We venture to say that these difficulties are felt because men are carried away by surface appearances, and do not ponder. They look upon the events of a limited time and space, and do not try to estimate God's dealings in view of all time and all space. Mistake follows studying parts; it is relieved by studying wholes. It. is not easy to appraise aright passing things; we cannot see how they fit. A bird's-eye view sets things in places and relations, and so explains a great deal.
II. THE LOVING-KINDNESS OF GOD IS REVEALED TO THE UNBIASED. And they only are the "wise." Every bias, prejudice, preconceived opinion, is a limitation of faculty, a misdirection of judgment. And if man would understand God's ways, it is of supreme importance that he should clear his mind, and come with the simplicity of true wisdom, to such studies.
III. THE LOVING-KINDNESS OF GOD IS REVEALED TO THE THOUGHTFUL. Here the idea is that mistake is made by coming to a too hasty decision or judgment. The thoughtful man is the man who is content to keep on thinking; who wants to see things all round and all through before he makes up his mind. Quietly wait to see the loving-kindness. It is often only revealed when the ends of God's dealings are reached.
IV. THE LOVING-KINDNESS OF GOD IS REVEALED TO THE EXPERIENCED. It is the man who only observes it who is so often misled. The man who feels it will be sure to realize the loving-kindness at last, if not at first. - R.T.