To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who spake unto the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul: And he said, I will love thee, O LORD, my strength.
There are three dark shadows which fall across every human life.
I. There is, first of all, the shadow of sin. It falls dark and thick upon the life of human beings. Sin is the transgression in will or in fact of the eternal moral law, of that law which, unlike the law of nature, could not be other than what it is, unless God could be other than what He is, of that law which is not an arbitrary enactment of His will, but the outflow of the expression of His very being. Sin thus is the contradiction of God, the resistance of the created will to the will of the Creator. And this resistance means darkness, not in the sky above our heads, but, far worse, darkness in the moral nature, darkness in the moral intelligence, darkness at the centre of the soul.
II. The shadow of pain. As the races and generations pass, whatever else may distinguish them from each other, whatever else they may have in common, they pass each and all, sooner or later, under the weird shadow of pain. How to deal with pain, how to alleviate it, how to do away with it—these have been questions which men have discussed for thousands of years; and anodynes there are, such as they are, for pains of body and pains of mind, anodynes of very varying moral worth, but of which this much must be said, that they do but at most curtail the fringe of the great realm of pain.
III. The shadow of death. The thought that death must come at last casts over thousands of lives a deep gloom. There is the uncertainty of the time and manner of its approach; there is the unimaginable experience of what in itself it will be; there is the dread of what may or may not follow it.
Sin, pain, death—these are the three shadows that fall across the life of men in this day of preparation for the great future; and that our Lord makes these dark shadows to be light is the experience in all ages of thousands of Christians. Only a robust faith in the unseen, only the faith of our Lord and God, can relieve the human heart when face to face with these solemn and irremovable conditions of our human life. So long as they last, the religion of the Crucified will last too.
H. P. Liddon, Contemporary Pulpit Extra No. 4, p. 92.
Psalm 18:30I. Consider this great and deep utterance in application to God's material works. Let us look at the various phenomena that are around us, and we shall see that the light, and air, and heat, and cold, and the heavenly bodies, the laws of electricity, the various kinds of climate under which men are living—all these are marvellously adapted to the end for which they are designed. All that came from the hand of God was very good, and it is the entrance and result of moral evil that has brought an apparent imperfection into the world, so that we are unable to look at the material works of God without having to qualify what the Psalmist says.
II. So it is in God's government of the world. Notwithstanding all that has been said about the Fall, and the present want of symphony and harmony in things, and the strange, bewildering tokens that something has gone wrong and made imperfect that which seems destined to be perfect, we maintain that when the issues of God's government in the world shall be known it shall be found true that His way was perfect.
III. This truth might be applied to the Gospel. If we look at man on the one hand and at God on the other, and at what the Gospel is designed to accomplish, we can see that God's way is perfect.
IV. The text may be brought to bear on God's dealings with His people individually. It is a text to be laid hold on by faith. God never put a wrong burden on anybody's back. His child must be educated, and trained, and disciplined, because he has to be brought home.
V. If by faith we are enabled to use the text now, with all life's riddles to puzzle out, and when we have all God's dark dealings to try us, a day is coming when all these mysteries will be cleared up in the flooding light of eternity, and the song of the saints will be, "As for God, His way is perfect."
J. C. Miller, Penny Pulpit, No. 1035.
Psalm 18:35Consider how the gentleness of a loving correction makes God's children great. For we ought, all of us, to wish to be great—great in the school of Christ, great in the Divine life, great in holiness, great in usefulness. There could not be a worse mistake than telling any Christian to crush or to curb his ambition. It is one of those natural passions which are virtues or vices according to their end. As an end, ambition is self, and therefore sin. As a means to God's glory, ambition is the highest grace. Point your ambition right, and then push it to the utmost.
I. We all have felt how we are always getting under the power of the little, everyday circumstances in which we live, and how, whatever may be our exceptional elevations, we are drawn down habitually to the lowness of the level of our common life. A real sorrow is a great liberator: it takes us out of the old groove of triviality; it restores things to their right proportion, making the little great, and the great little. Correction, whatever else it does, sets a man free, and puts him in a position that he may become great.
II. A time of sorrow is, and must be, a time of thought. And what most of us want is to be brought really to think. It is not too much to say that every one who is at the pains to think, and to think truly, will become great. But it specially leads us to think about our own state before God, for as soon as ever we are in sorrow it is in the gentleness of God that He wishes to comfort us.
III. Loving correction brings us into contact with the greatness of God. If a mind is conversant with what is great, it must become greater. There is a dignity in grief, and God only matches with that dignity.
IV. It is the great humiliation of sorrow which makes it magnifying. For what is greatness? Humility. And there is no humbler like a great sorrow.
V. But, above all, it is because it unites us to the Lord Jesus Christ that correction makes us great. There is nothing great before God but Christ; and every other thing is great before God as He sees it in Christ, as it is identified with Christ.
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 4th series, p. 245.
I. We find rising out of these words the question, What is the greatness which in the Christian is produced by God's gentleness? It is excellence in that for which especially man was originally created. Now, as we learn from Scripture that man was made in the image of God, it follows that men are great in the proportion in which they are like Him. The greatness of manhood is greatness in holiness. It is a moral thing, for the truest manliness and the highest Godlikeness are convertible terms.
II. Consider how God's gentleness can be said to make us great. The human heart is always more deeply affected by tenderness than by sternness. If you wish to drag a man by force, his nature is to resist you; but if you attempt to attract him by love, it is equally his nature to follow you. God, who has given us this nature, seeks to save us in accordance with it. (1) God has manifested His gentleness in the mission and work of Jesus Christ, and makes proclamation of pardon and regeneration to every one who will accept them through His Son. (2) The words of the text are verified in the manner in which God receives individuals into His love, and so begins in them the greatness of holiness. (3) The truth of the text is made apparent also in the manner in which God in Christ Jesus trains His people after they have come to Him. He teaches them more and more of His grace; yet, in truest tenderness, He teaches them as they are able to bear it.
This subject has a twofold application. (1) It presents Jehovah to the sinner in a very affectionate attitude. (2) It shows the Christian how he should seek to bring others to Jesus. The gentleness of God should be repeated and reproduced in us.
W. M. Taylor, Limitations of Life, and Other Sermons, p. 344.
I. The longsuffering of God declares His power. What He does not punish now, He can punish by-and-bye; what He does not punish here, He can punish there; what not in this world, in the next. He is, in the words of the Psalmist, "strong and patient," patient because He is strong, because all power belongeth unto Him.
II. The longsuffering of God is a declaration of His love, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. He sees the saint in the sinner, the saint that shall be in the sinner that is, the wheat in the tare, the shepherd feeding the sheep in the wolf tearing the sheep.
III. This tardiness of vengeance, this lame foot with which it seems to lag and halt after successful wickedness, is no pledge of safety to the sinner. It argues no listlessness, no moral indifference to the eternal distinctions between good and evil, on the part of Him who is the Judge of the whole earth, and by whom actions are weighed. It means (1) that Christ has died for sinners, and (2) that God can afford to wait. Flee from Him thou canst not. To flee to Him is thy only way of deliverance.
R. C. Trench, Sermons in Westminster Abbey, p. 339.
I. Greatness is always a work of time. This is true even of apparent greatness, mere elevation of state. Emphatically is it true that moral greatness is a work of time. Character is a growth, generally a very slow growth. We must not give up our assurance of Christian excellence; that were to abandon our hope of heaven. Neither must we suppose that so great an achievement can only be accomplished by stormy and violent ways. The "hidings of power" are the mark of God. His "gentleness" makes us great.
II. God must be gentle; for gentleness is a sign of perfection.
III. The idea of God's gentleness comes out of our knowledge of His unchangeableness.
IV. Consider the influence of God's gentleness on Christian character: it makes us great. (1) Two of the prime elements of personal greatness—nobility of purpose and purity of motive—are directly stimulated by the gentleness of God. (2) Wisdom is another element of greatness; and we need time that we may be wise. (3) Steadfastness in its two forms—perseverance in good resolve and patience under difficulty—is given us by the gentle dealing of our God.
V. This subject throws light on our perplexities (1) about conversion; (2) about Christian perfection.
A. Mackennal, Life of Christian Consecration, p. 67.
God's gentleness lies in His consenting to the use of indirection as a way of gaining His adversaries. Force and cruel absolutism are put by; the irritations of a jealous littleness have no place; and the great God and Father, intent on making His children great, follows them and plies them with the gracious indirections of a faithful and patient love.
I. Observe how far off this gentleness is from the practice, and even capacity generally, of mankind. True greatness is a character too lofty for any but the greatest and most Divinely tempered souls.
II. Some evidence will be demanded that God pursues any such method of indirection, or of rectorial gentleness, with us. See then (1) how openly He takes this attitude in the Scriptures. (2) It is the very genius of Christianity to prevail with man, or to bring him back to obedience and life, by a course of loving indirection. When a soul is really born of God, it will be the result of what the Spirit has wrought, by a long, and various, and subtle, and beautiful process, too delicate for human thought to trace. (3) We see this gentleness in God's management of our experience. Doing everything to work on our feeling, temperament, thought, will, and so on our eternal character, He still does nothing by direct impulsion.
III. The end God has in view is to make us great. He has a much higher respect for the capabilities of our human nature, and much higher designs concerning it, than we have ourselves. While God is ever engaged in bringing down our loftiness in evil and perversity, He is just as constantly engaged in making us loftier and stronger in everything desirable—in capacity, and power, and all personal majesty. He wants to make us great in will, in intellect, in courage, enthusiasm, self-respect, firmness, superiority to things and matters of condition, great in sonship with Himself.
IV. Holding such a view of God's ends and the careful indirections by which He pursues them, we cannot fail to note (1) the softened aspect given to what are often called the unaccountable severities of human experience. (2) How strangely weak and low is the perversity of many when they require it of God to convert them by force, or drive them heavenward by storm. (3) Let us adjust our conceptions to that which is the true pitch and scale of our magnanimity and worth as Christian men. Be it ours to live with a sense of our high calling upon us; abiding in all the holy magnanimities of love, honour, sacrifice, and truth; sincere, exact, faithful, bountiful, and free; showing thus to others, and knowing always in ourselves, that we do steadily aspire to just that height of good into which our God Himself has undertaken to exalt us.
H. Bushnell, Christ and His Salvation, p. 18.
References: Psalm 18:35.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii., No. 683; Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 100; E. Leach, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 232; Bishop Woodford, Sermons on Subjects from the Old Testament, p. 105; C. J. Vaughan, Voices of the Prophets, p. 215.
Psalm 18:50This is Christ's resurrection psalm; He is the King, and the deliverance spoken of not in this verse only, but frequently throughout the Psalm, is specially His deliverance, His deliverance as the Representative of His own. It is a psalm of deliverance or salvation; the two words are the same. The whole history of the Bible from beginning to end pertains to what God calls deliverance.
I. First of all, we find in David's history a history of deliverance. David was a man of like passions with ourselves, not faultless, not perfect, but falling again and again into sin, and yet plucked out of that iniquity into which he fell by the interposing hand of Him who had great deliverances always in store for him.
II. Israel's history is a history of deliverance, and very remarkably so. Each section of Israel's history contains a gospel for us. Each one of Israel's deliverances proclaims glad tidings of great joy to us in our weakness, weariness, and exposure to continual danger from enemies on the right hand and on the left.
III. Then you have, in the third place, Christ's history as a history of deliverance, Messiah's history. His deliverances were ours, and as such we are to regard them, and to triumph in them. He was saved from the hands of His enemies that we also might be saved.
IV. The history of the Church is a history of deliverance—deliverances just at the time when she was lowest, deliverances which put a new song in her mouth, and sent her on a new career of gladness and usefulness.
V. The history of each believer is a history of deliverance—deliverance from first to last, deliverance at the hand of the faithful Deliverer, He who came in the name of the Lord to save us, who is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by Him.
H. Bonar, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 177.
References: Psalm 18—A. Maclaren, Life of David, p. 153; I. Williams, The Psalms Interpreted of Christ, p. 315. Psalm 19:1.—R. Lee, Sermons, pp. 279, 294, 308, 325, 342, 359; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 195.
The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.
The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.
The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.
In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.
Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.
There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.
He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet.
And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.
He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.
At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.
The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire.
Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.
Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.
He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.
They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the LORD was my stay.
He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.
The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.
For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God.
For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me.
I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity.
Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.
With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright;
With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.
For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks.
For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.
For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall.
As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.
For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our God?
It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.
He maketh my feet like hinds' feet, and setteth me upon my high places.
He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.
Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.
Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.
I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed.
I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet.
For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.
Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me.
They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the LORD, but he answered them not.
Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.
Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; and thou hast made me the head of the heathen: a people whom I have not known shall serve me.
As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me.
The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places.
The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.
It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me.
He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.
Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name.
Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.