Psalm 73:28
But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all your works.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(28) Works.—Not God’s doings, but works prescribed to the psalmist, messages entrusted to him; no doubt here the conclusions he had come to, or the truths that had been revealed to him, in contrast with the false opinions from which he had been freed.

Psalms

NEARNESS TO GOD THE KEY TO LIFE’S PUZZLE

Psalm 73:28
.

The old perplexity as to how it comes, if God is good and wise and strong, that bad men should prosper and good men should suffer, has been making the Psalmist’s faith reel. He does not answer the question exactly as the New Testament would have done, but he does find a solution sufficient for himself in two thoughts, the transiency of that outward prosperity, and the eternal sufficiency of God. ‘It was too painful for me until I went into the Sanctuary, then understood I their end’; and on the other hand: ‘Thou art the Strength of my life, and my Portion for ever.’ So he climbs at last to the calm height where he learns that, whatever be a man’s outward prosperity, if he is separated from God he ceases to be. As the context says: ‘They that are far from Thee shall perish.’ ‘Thou hast destroyed’-already, before they die-’all them that go a-whoring from Thee.’ And on the other hand, whatever be the outward condition, God is enough. ‘It is good for me,’ rich or poor harassed or at rest, afflicted or prosperous, in health or sickness, solitary or compassed about with loving friends, ‘it is good for me to draw near to God’; and nothing else is good. Thus the river that has had to fight its way through rocks, and has been chafed in the conflict, and has twisted its path through many a deep, dark, sunless gorge, comes out at last into the open, and flows with a broad sunlit breast, peaceable and full, into the great ocean-’It is good for me to draw near to God.’

But that is not all. The Psalmist goes on to tell how we are to draw near to God: ‘I have put my trust in Him.’ And that is not all, for he further goes on to tell how, drawing near to God through faith, all these puzzles and mysteries about men’s condition cease to perplex, and a beam of light falls upon the whole of them. ‘I have put my trust in God, that I may declare all Thy works.’ There are no knots in the thread now.

I. So here we have, first the truth of experience that nearness to God is the one good.

Of course, it is so in the Psalmist’s view, since he believes, as we profess to believe, that, to quote the words of another Psalmist, ‘With Thee is the fountain of life’; and therefore that to ‘draw near to Thee’ is to carry our little empty pitchers to that great spring that is always flowing with waters ever sweet and clear. Union with God is life, in all senses of the word, according as the creature is capable of union with Him. Why! there is no life in a plant except God’s power is vitalising it. ‘Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow’ because God makes them grow. There is no bodily life in a man, unless He continually breathes into the nostrils the breath of life. If you stop the flow of the fountain, then all the pools are dry. There is no life intellectual in a man, except by the ‘inspiration of the Almighty,’ from whom ‘all just thoughts do proceed.’ Above all these forms of life the real life of a spirit is the life derived from the union with God Himself, whereby He pours Himself into it, and in the deepest sense of the words it is true: ‘Because I live ye shall live also.’ ‘It is good for me to draw near to God,’ because, unless I do, and if I am separated from Him, my true self is dead, even whilst I seem to live. All that are parted from Him perish; all that are joined to Him, and only they, do live what is worth calling life. Cut off the sunbeam from the sun, and what becomes of it? It vanishes. Separate a soul from God, and it is dead. What is all the good of the world to you if your true self is dead? And what an absurdity it is to deck a corpse with riches and pomp of various kinds! That is what the men of the world are doing, who have chained themselves to earth, and cut themselves off from God. ‘For me it is good to draw near to God.’ Do you draw near? Because if you do not, no matter what prosperity you have, you do not know anything about the true life and real good for heart and spirit.

I suppose I need scarcely go on pointing out other aspects of this supreme-or more truly, this solitary-good. For instance, nothing is really good to me unless I have it within me, so as that it can never be wrenched away from me. The blessings that we cannot incorporate with the very substance of our being are only partial blessings after all; and all these things round us that do minister to our necessities, tastes, affections, and sometimes to our weaknesses, these good things fail just in this, that they stand outside us, and there is no real union between us and them. So, changes come, and we have to unclasp hands, and the footsteps that used to be planted by the side of ours cease, and our track across the sands is lonely; and losses come, and death comes, and all the glory and the good that were only externally possessed by us we leave behind us. As this psalm says: ‘I considered their end . . . how they are brought into desolation, as in a moment!’ What is the good of a good that is not incorporated into any being? What is the good of a good about which I cannot say, with a smile of confidence, ‘I know that where-ever I may go, and whatever may befall me, that can never pass from me’? There is but one good of that sort. ‘I am persuaded that . . . neither life nor death . . . nor any other creature, shall separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ ‘It is good for me,’ amidst the morasses and quicksands and bogs of life’s uncertain and shifting ill and good, to set my feet upon the rock, and to say: ‘Here I stand, and my footing will never give way.’ Do you, brother! possess a changeless, imperishable, inwrought good like that? You may if you like.

But remember, too, that in regard to this Christian good, it is not only the possession of it, but the aspiration after it, that is blessed. The Psalmist does not only say, ‘It is good for me to be near to God,’ but he says, ‘It is good for me to draw near.’ There is one kind of life in which the seeking is all but as blessed as the finding. There is one kind of life in which to desire is all but as full of peace, and power, and joy as to possess. Therefore, another psalm, which begins by celebrating the blessedness of the men that dwell in God’s house, and are ‘still praising Thee,’ goes on to speak of the blessedness, not less blessed, of the men ‘in whose heart are the ways.’ They who have reached the Temple are at rest, and blessed in their repose. They who are journeying towards it are in action, and blessed in their activity. ‘It is good to draw near’; and the seeking after God is as far above the possession of all other good as heaven is above earth.

But then, notice further, how our Psalmist comes down to very plain, practical teaching. He seems to feel that he must explain what he means by drawing near to God. And here is his explanation. ‘I have put my trust in the Lord.’

II. The way to nearness to God is twofold.

On the one hand the true path is Jesus Christ, on the other hand the means by which we walk upon that path is our faith. The Apostle puts it all in a nutshell when he says that his prayer for the Ephesian Church is that ‘Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith,’ and then, by a linked chain which we have not now to consider, leads up to the final issues of that faith in that indwelling Christ-’that ye may be filled with all the fulness of God.’ So to draw near and to possess that good, that only good which is God, all that is needed is-and it is needed-that we should turn with the surrender of our hearts, with the submission of our wills, with the outgoing of our affections, and with the conformity of our practical life, to Jesus. Seeing Him, we see the Father, and having Him near us, we feel the touch of the divine hand, and being joined to the Lord, we are separated from the vanities of life, and united to the Supreme Good.

Dear brethren! this Psalmist shows us how hard it is for us to keep up that continual attitude of faith, how many difficulties there are in daily life, in the way of our continually being true to our deepest convictions, and seeking after Him amidst all the distracting whirl and perplexities of our daily lives. But he shows us, too, how possible it is, even for men constituted as we are, moment by moment, day by day, task by task, to keep vivid the consciousness of our dependence upon Him, and the blessed consciousness of our being beside Him, and how, if we do, strength will come to us for everything. The secret of a joyous walk lies in this, ‘I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.’ We draw near to God when we clutch Christ in faith. Our faith manifests itself, not merely by a lazy reliance upon what He once did, long ago, on the Cross for us; but by daily, effortful revivifying of our consciousness of His presence, of our consciousness of our dependence upon Him, and by the continual reference of thoughts, desires, plans, and actions to Himself.

Keep God beside you so, and then there will follow what this Psalmist reached at last, a peaceful insight into what else are full of perplexity and difficulty, the ways of God in the world.

To myself, to my dear ones, to the nation, to the Church, to the world, there come many perplexing riddles as to God’s dealings, that cannot be solved except by getting close to Him. Just as a little child nestling on its mother’s bosom, with its mother’s arm around it, looks out with peaceful eye and a bright smile, upon everything beyond the safe nest, so they who are near to God can bear to look at difficulties and perplexities, and the mysteries of their own sorrows and of the world’s miseries, and say, ‘All things work together for good’; ‘I have put my trust in the Lord, that I may declare all Thy works.’ Stand in the sun, and all the planets move around it manifestly in order. Take your place anywhere else, and there is confusion. Get beside God, and look out on the world, and you will see it as He saw it when, ‘Behold! it was very good.’

Now, dear friends! my text in its first part may become the description of our death. One man holds on to the world as it is slipping away from him. I remember a story about a coast-guardsman that was flung over the cliffs once, and when they picked up his dead body, all under the nails was full of chalk that he had scraped off the cliffs in his desperate attempts to clutch at something to hold by. That is like one kind of death. But another kind may be: ‘It is good for me to draw near to God.’ And when we reach His side, and see all the past from the centre, and in the light of the Eternal Present, to which it has led, we shall be able to declare all His works, and to give thanks ‘for all the way by which the Lord our God hath led us’ and the world ‘these many years in the wilderness.’Psalm 73:28. But it is good for me to draw near to God — But whatsoever they do, I am abundantly satisfied that it is, as my duty, so my interest and happiness, to cleave unto thee by faith, love, and obedience, and diligent attendance upon all thy ordinances. I have put my trust in the Lord God — I depend on him alone, for all my comfort and felicity; That I may declare all thy works — From which dependance, I know, I shall have this benefit, that I shall have many and great occasions to declare God’s acts of mercy and kindness to me. 73:21-28 God would not suffer his people to be tempted, if his grace were not sufficient, not only to save them from harm, but to make them gainers by it. This temptation, the working of envy and discontent, is very painful. In reflecting upon it, the psalmist owns it was his folly and ignorance thus to vex himself. If good men, at any time, through the surprise and strength of temptation, think, or speak, or act amiss, they will reflect upon it with sorrow and shame. We must ascribe our safety in temptation, and our victory, not to our own wisdom, but to the gracious presence of God with us, and Christ's intercession for us. All who commit themselves to God, shall be guided with the counsel both of his word and of his Spirit, the best counsellors here, and shall be received to his glory in another world; the believing hopes and prospects of which will reconcile us to all dark providences. And the psalmist was hereby quickened to cleave the closer to God. Heaven itself could not make us happy without the presence and love of our God. The world and all its glory vanishes. The body will fail by sickness, age, and death; when the flesh fails, the conduct, courage, and comfort fail. But Christ Jesus, our Lord, offers to be all in all to every poor sinner, who renounces all other portions and confidences. By sin we are all far from God. And a profession Christ, if we go on in sin, will increase our condemnation. May we draw near, and keep near, to our God, by faith and prayer, and find it good to do so. Those that with an upright heart put their trust in God, shall never want matter for thanksgiving to him. Blessed Lord, who hast so graciously promised to become our portion in the next world, prevent us from choosing any other in this.But it is good for me to draw near to God - That is, It is pleasant; it is profitable; it is the chief good. For myself, happiness is to be found in that alone; there I find what my nature pants for and desires. Others find, or attempt to find, happiness in other things; my happiness is found in God alone. This is the result to which the psalmist came after all his perplexity. With all his doubts and difficulties, his real desire was to be near to God; his supreme happiness was found there.

I have put my trust in the Lord God - I have truly confided in him; he is my portion and the sole ground of my reliance. The doubts which he had had were not, after all, real doubts about the claim of God to confidence. There was an underlying trust in God in the midst of all this. He had not desired to cherish such doubts; he did, on the most calm reflection, still trust in God.

That I may declare all thy works - That I might make known thy doings toward the children of men. I have desired rightly to understand thee and thy government, that I might vindicate thy name, and assert thy claim to the love and confidenee of mankind. His doubts and perplexities had not really been because he was an enemy of God, or because he desired to cherish doubts in regard to him, but because, when appearances were against the equity of the divine government, he wished to see how the things which occurred could be explained consistently with a proper belief in the goodness and justice of God, in order that he might go and explain the matter to his fellow-men. Such perplexities and doubts, therefore, are not really inconsistent with true love for God and genuine confidence in him; and it is well when such doubts are made the means of enabling us more clearly to explain the divine dealings - it is well when, under all such doubts and difficulties, we can still find evidence that we truly love God.

27, 28. The lot of apostates, described by a figure of frequent use (Jer 3:1, 3; Eze 23:35), is contrasted with his, who finds happiness in nearness to God (Jas 4:8), and his delightful work the declaration of His praise. But whatsoever they do, I am abundantly satisfied that it is, as my duty, so my interest and happiness, to cleave unto thee, by faith, and love, and obedience, and diligent attendance upon all thine ordinances.

I have put my trust in the Lord God; I depend upon him alone for all my comfort and felicity.

That I may declare all thy works; from which I know I shall have this benefit, that I shall have many and great occasions to declare God’s acts of mercy and kindness to me. But it is good for me to draw near to God,.... In prayer, and other acts of religious worship; to attend the word and ordinances in the sanctuary, where the psalmist had lately been delivered out of a sore temptation, and so had a recent experience, which was fresh in his mind, of the advantages of such exercises; for it is both an honourable good, what is becoming and commendable, and a pleasant good, what yields delight and satisfaction, and a profitable good, to draw nigh to God by Christ, the new and living way, assisted by the Holy Spirit; which, when done aright, is with faith, sincerity, reverence, and a holy boldness:

I have put my trust in the Lord God; as the rock of his refuge and salvation, as his portion and inheritance:

that I may declare all thy works; of providence and grace, by proclaiming the wisdom, power, goodness, and faithfulness of God in them; by giving him the glory of them, and by expressing thankfulness for them, both by words and deeds.

But it is good for me {q} to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.

(q) Though all the world shrinks from God, yet he promises to trust in him and to magnify his works.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
28. But as for me, to draw near to God is good for me:

In the Lord Jehovah have I made my refuge;

That I may speak of all thy works.

Emphatically he contrasts himself with those who ‘go far from God.’ Once he had been tempted to ask what profit there was in serving God, and openly to speak (Psalm 73:15) of his doubts: but now he can find an endless theme for praise in the dealings of God with the righteous and the wicked. The LXX reads, “that I may declare all thy praises in the gates of the daughter of Sion,” as in Psalm 9:14; and this may preserve the original reading, for the present Heb. text sounds incomplete. The P.B.V. “to speak of all thy works in the gates of the daughter of Sion” combines the LXX with the Heb.Verse 28. - But it is good for me to draw near to God; or, "but as for me, nearness to God is my good" (Kay). Compare the well known hymn -

"Nearer, my God, to thee,
Nearer to thee;
Even though it be a cross
That raiseth me;
Still all my song shall be,
Nearer, my God, to thee,
Nearer to thee."
I have put my trust in the Lord God; literally, in the Lord Jehovah (Adonai Jehovah) - an unusual combination. That I may declare all thy works. With the intention of ever hereafter declaring and magnifying all thy works.



The poet calms himself with the solution of the riddle that has come to him; and it would be beneath his dignity as a man to allow himself any further to be tempted by doubting thoughts. Placing himself upon the standpoint of the end, he sees how the ungodly come to terrible destruction in a moment: they come to an end (ספוּ from סוּף, not ספה), it is all over with them (תּמּוּ) in consequence of (מן as in Psalm 76:7, and unconnected as in Psalm 18:4; Psalm 30:4; Psalm 22:14) frightful occurrences (בּלּהות, a favourite word, especially in the Book of Job), which clear them out of the way. It is with them as with a dream, after (מן as in 1 Chronicles 8:8) one is awoke. One forgets the vision on account of its nothingness (Job 20:8). So the evil-doers who boast themselves μετὰ πολλῆς φαντασίας (Acts 25:23) are before God a צלם, a phantom or unsubstantial shadow. When He, the sovereign Lord, shall awake, i.e., arouse Himself to judgment after He has looked on with forbearance, then He will despise their shadowy image, will cast it contemptuously from Him. Luther renders, So machstu Herr jr Bilde in der Stad verschmecht (So dost Thou, Lord, make their image despised in the city). But neither has the Kal בּזה this double transitive signification, "to give over to contempt," nor is the mention of the city in place here. In Hosea 11:9 also בּעיר in the signification in urbem gives no right sense; it signifies heat of anger or fury, as in Jeremiah 15:8, heat of anguish, and Schrder maintains the former signification (vid., on Psalm 139:20), in fervore (irae), here also; but the pointing בּעיר is against it. Therefore בּעיר is to be regarded, with the Targum, as syncopated from בּהעיר (cf. לביא, Jeremiah 39:7; 2 Chronicles 31:10; בּכּשׁלו, Proverbs 24:17, and the like); not, however, to be explained, "when they awake," viz., from the sleep of death (Targum),

(Note: The Targum version is, "As the dream of a drunken man, who awakes out of his sleep, wilt Thou, O Lord, on the day of the great judgment, when they awake out of their graves, in wrath abandon their image to contempt." The text of our editions is to be thus corrected according to Bechai (on Deuteronomy 33:29) and Nachmani (in his treatise שׁער הגמול).)

or after Psalm 78:38, "when Thou awakest them," viz., out of their sleep of security (De Wette, Kurtz), but after Psalm 35:23, "when Thou awakest," viz., to sit in judgment.

Thus far we have the divine answer, which is reproduced by the poet after the manner of prayer. Hengstenberg now goes on by rendering it, "for my heart was incensed;" but we cannot take יתחמּץ according to the sequence of tenses as an imperfect, nor understand כּי as a particle expression the reason. On the contrary, the poet, from the standpoint of the explanation he has received, speaks of a possible return (כּי seq. fut. equals ἐάν) of his temptation, and condemns it beforehand: si exacerbaretur animus meus atque in renibus meis pungerer. התחמּץ, to become sour, bitter, passionate; השׁתּונן, with the more exactly defining accusative כּליותי, to be pricked, piqued, irritated. With ואני begins the apodosis: then should I be... I should have become (perfect as in Psalm 73:15, according to Ges. 126, 5). Concerning לא ידע, non sapere, vid., Psalm 14:4. בּהמות can be taken as compar. decurtata for כּבהמות; nevertheless, as apparently follows from Job 40:15, the poet surely has the p-ehe-mou, the water ox, i.e., the hippopotamus, in his mind, which being Hebraized is בּהמות,

(Note: The Egyptian p frequently passes over into the Hebrew b, and vice vers, as in the name Aperiu equals עברים; p, however, is retained in פרעה equals phar-aa, grand-house (οἶκος μέγας in Horapollo), the name of the Egyptian rulers, which begins with the sign of the plan of a house equals p.)

and, as a plump colossus of flesh, is at once an emblem of colossal stupidity (Maurer, Hitzig). The meaning of the poet is, that he would not be a man in relation to God, over against God (עם, as in Psalm 78:37; Job 9:2, cf. Arab. ma‛a, in comparison with), if he should again give way to the same doubts, but would be like the most stupid animal, which stands before God incapable of such knowledge as He willingly imparts to earnestly inquiring man.

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