To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness.
(with Luke xxiii., ver. 46, and Acts vii., ver. 59)
I. Regard the words as supplying the true watchword of life. When we commit our spirit into the hand of God, three results accrue. (1) We approach the duties of life through a series of the most elevating considerations, (a) We are not our own. (b) We are parts of a great system. (c) We are servants, not masters. (d) The things that are round about us are beneath our serious notice except for momentary convenience or instruction. (2) We accept the trials of life with the most hopeful patience. They are disciplinary; they are under control; they are needful. (3) We recognise the mercies of life with the most joyous thankfulness.
II. Regard the words as supplying the true watchword of death. This watchword, as spoken by Jesus and as spoken by Stephen, shows (1) their belief in a state of being at present invisible; (2) their assurance of the limitations of human malice. In view of these considerations, there are four points of practical application. (1) Where the spirit is fit for the presence of God, there is no fear of death. (2) All who have lived in the faith are present with the Lord. (3) Jesus Himself knows what it is to pass through the valley of the shadow of death. (4) The prayer for entrance amongst the blest may come too late.
Parker, City Temple, vol. ii., p. 14 (see also Pulpit Notes, p. 106).
References: Psalm 31:5.—H. Wace, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 358; Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 242; R. W. Evans, Parochial Sermons, vol. ii., p. 210. Psalm 31:7.—F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. vi., p. 221.
Psalm 31:15I. Our times are in God's hand in this sense, that He alone has chosen for us the period of the world in which we should live. Feeling that God has placed us in this age that we may make our impress on it, we should prepare ourselves faithfully for doing its work.
II. Again, our circumstances and the direction of our lives upon earth are in God's hand. We are standing while the generations that rose up by our side are sleeping in the ground. We live because it is God's good pleasure that we should still have a work to do and responsibilities to meet.
III. We shall see that our times are in God's hand if we consider how impotent comparatively we are in respect to all the elements around us, how liable in a moment to be called hence.
IV. Our times are in God's hand as to the opportunities enjoyed both for personal improvement and for conferring benefit upon others. God speaks to us through our opportunities.
V. Again, we are not our own. We may have wisdom, learning, wealth, power, influence, and yet we have not power to lift for one hour the veil which hides the future from our view. (1) Our ways are not under the control of our friends. (2) Our times are not in the hands of our enemies.
If God thus encircles us by the agencies of His providential power and grace, then (1) we ought to feel our dependence on God, not on man, not on the best-laid plans. This sense of dependence should keep us in the attitude of prayer. (2) Only by realising this great truth do we prepare ourselves either for great happiness or great usefulness. The God in whose hands our times are holds the times of all other human beings, holds all agencies, directs all events according to the counsel of His will, and we shall be successful only when we place ourselves directly in harmony with His laws. (3) What a source of comfort it is when we can believe fully that our times are in God's hand! If we feel we are resting upon the bosom of Omnipotence, what can disturb our repose? It may be that the very evils which some of us fear are only the occasion of working out some good. In all ages the men who have done right have been successful.
Bishop M. Simpson, Sermons, p. 39.
Reference: Psalm 31:15.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 333, and vol. vii., p. 1.
Psalm 31:16I. The smile of God has its moving cause in the infinite heart of God.
II. The smile of God comes from His heart, and thus from His love and His blessedness.
III. The smile of God is essential to us, and it alone is sufficient for us. With the smile of man and without the smile of God there is neither well-being nor welldoing. With the smile of God and without the smile of man there must be prosperity, and there may be peace and joy.
IV. The smile of God is sorely missed when, having been found, it is lost. The loss of that smile was the occasion of the Psalm before us being written. Child of God, disciple of Jesus Christ, afflicted one, but comforted, recovered backslider, labourer in God's vineyard, and ye who abide in Jesus, God smiles upon you. Every good gift, every gracious work, every merciful dealing with us, every prevention of mischief to us, every word of promise, is a smile of God. Above all, the face of Jesus is God's perfect and infinite smile.
S. Martin, Comfort in Trouble, p. 58.
Psalm 31:19This text is the expression of a Divine law, the law of God's wise reserve in dispensing His favours.
I. There are certain great blessings of God which no man is able to receive at once without preparation.
II. A part of this preparation depends upon ourselves; therefore it is sometimes our fault that the laid-up goodness is kept back.
III. God really consults for our pleasure by His judicious reservation of His bounties.
IV. Another of God's designs in this policy of reservation is to stimulate us to effort. No one can study the Scriptures long without seeing that God's gifts are to be sought for. If our joy is to be full, it is on condition that we ask.
V. Illustrations of this principle of reserve are seen particularly (1) in God's promises, and (2) in His providences.
VI. God's goodness is not always kept hidden. If there is reserve, there is also unfolding. But if we want the goodness wrought out, we must have faith in the goodness which is laid up.
M. R. Vincent, Gates into the Psalm Country, p. 91.
Reference: Psalm 31:19.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiii., No. 773.
Psalm 31:20By "the pride of man" and "the strife of tongues" we may understand the whole of that cruel and disturbing interference of one man's life with another's which may take such an endless variety of forms.
I. There are two different attitudes which almost all men take towards the tendency of the life around us to swallow up and drown our personality. It is strange to see how, long before they come to middle age, almost all men, except the lowest and the highest, all men of strong character who have not reached some religious conception of their true relations to the world, have either become defiant of the world, setting themselves in obtrusive independence against its claims, or else have tried in some way to withdraw themselves from it and let the world go its way, determined that they will not be sacrificed to its importunate demand. We know both spirits, and we know that both are bad. The first makes a man hard and brutal, and the second makes a man selfish and self-conceited.
II. Notice, next, how it is that in Christianity the refuge of God is thrown wide open to men who are tired with, and who feel the danger of, the world. (1) The release and refuge of Christianity consists in the way it brings the soul into communion with God. "Thou wilt keep him in the secret of Thy presence." This means that when a man is spiritually conscious of the presence of God it secludes and separates him from every other presence. You are with others, and yet you are alone with Him. They parade their foolish vanities before you, and you hardly see them. It is as if a bright fly fluttered its impertinent finery between you and the west when you were looking at a gorgeous sunset. He has blinded you to all beside Himself. (2) True Christian faith develops and strengthens individuality in each of us. The reason why the talk of people about us, their pride and arrogance, their intrusion upon our life, hurts us so, gives us so much pain, and does us so much harm, is the weakness of our own sense of personality. A true Christian faith starts with the truth of a personal redemption, and leads the man up to personal duties. When he takes up his work and does it, he can no more be frightened out of it than the man to whom Jesus had given his bed to carry from Bethesda up the street to his own house could have been scared by all the curious gaping of the crowd and driven back to the dreary place under the porches where he had lain for thirty-eight long years.
III. The third element of the freedom which Christianity gave to its servants was in the value that it taught them to place upon the talk of the world, upon what David calls "the strife of tongues." (1) It is good for us often to know how superficial, how lightly made, how soon forgotten, are the judgments of our brethren which sound so solemn, and which tyrannise over us so. Such a feeling sets us free, and makes us independent. (2) There is one other thing more helpful than this; and that is the way in which Christianity, by putting us into true relations to our fellow-men, saves us from falling into false relations to them. There is no escape from the slavery of other men like that which comes of the intelligent and earnest service of other men.
Phillips Brooks, Sermons, p. 78.
References: Psalm 31:22.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix., No. 1146, and vol. xxvii., No. 1589; J. M. Neale, Sermons on Passages of the Psalms, p. 67. Psalm 31:23.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vi., No. 325; J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 3rd series, p. 38. Psalm 31—A. Maclaren, Life of David, p. 132. Psalm 32:1.—J. Keble, Sermons from Lent to Passiontide, p. 260; H. Thompson, Concionalia: Outlines for Parochial Use, 1st series, vol. i., p. 117; Sermons for Boys and Girls, p. 328.
Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, for an house of defence to save me.
For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name's sake lead me, and guide me.
Pull me out of the net that they have laid privily for me: for thou art my strength.
Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth.
I have hated them that regard lying vanities: but I trust in the LORD.
I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy: for thou hast considered my trouble; thou hast known my soul in adversities;
And hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy: thou hast set my feet in a large room.
Have mercy upon me, O LORD, for I am in trouble: mine eye is consumed with grief, yea, my soul and my belly.
For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing: my strength faileth because of mine iniquity, and my bones are consumed.
I was a reproach among all mine enemies, but especially among my neighbours, and a fear to mine acquaintance: they that did see me without fled from me.
I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind: I am like a broken vessel.
For I have heard the slander of many: fear was on every side: while they took counsel together against me, they devised to take away my life.
But I trusted in thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my God.
My times are in thy hand: deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me.
Make thy face to shine upon thy servant: save me for thy mercies' sake.
Let me not be ashamed, O LORD; for I have called upon thee: let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave.
Let the lying lips be put to silence; which speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous.
Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men!
Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man: thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.
Blessed be the LORD: for he hath shewed me his marvellous kindness in a strong city.
For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes: nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee.
O love the LORD, all ye his saints: for the LORD preserveth the faithful, and plentifully rewardeth the proud doer.
Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.