The LORD will give strength to his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace.
Our text in its first clause points out the process by which we are prepared, and the second is a declaration of the privileges which are to be enjoyed by Christians.
I. WHAT IS THAT PEACE WHICH GOD PROMISES TO HIS PEOPLE? "My peace I give unto you." The peace of Christ — enjoyed by Him, and bequeathed to His followers — was not a peace resulting from a sense that sin was forgiven, for He had done "no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth." It must have been the thorough harmony which there was between His will and the Divine, His perfect acquiescence in every appointment of the Father, His undeviating confidence in His protection, and His imperturbable assurance of His love. These we may believe to have been the elements in the peace of a being, who was "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners"; but who, notwithstanding His freedom from all guilt, had to make His way through much tribulation to a throne prepared for Him at His Father's right hand. And, though there must be respects in which the peace attainable by ourselves will differ from that enjoyed by our Saviour, still, forasmuch as He left His own peace to His Church, we may expect that the points of resemblance will be more numerous than those of distinction. We have every right to contend that there will enter into the constituent elements of a Christian's peace, that harmony with the Divine will, that acquiescence in the Divine dealings, that confidence in the Divine protection, and that assurance of the Divine love, which must have composed thee peace of Christ; for these belonged not to the Saviour as He differed from ourselves, but rather as He was a man, living the life of faith in the midst of trials and temptations. If the peace of God reigns in your heart, you will have a consciousness that sin is forgiven; an ever-growing earnestness in striving after holiness; a tranquillity undisturbed by the calamities of life; a hope superior to the terrors of death.
II. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THIS PEACE AND THAT STRENGTH WITH WHICH IT IS IDENTIFIED IN THE TEXT, In spiritual things, the Christian has need of being strengthened both in the head and heart; and now let us see whether in giving him "peace," God does not give him "strength" both in the one and in the other.
1. First as to the head. You are always to distinguish very carefully between what we may call the offensive and the defensive weapons of a Christian; between the arguments with which he may attempt to beat down the infidelity of another, and those which may suffice to the keeping off infidelity from himself. If the believer know little or nothing of the external testimony on the side of revelation, he will be no match for his opponent, and must not expect to undermine his scepticism. But will he, on this account, be himself an easy prey to the infidel? is there nothing to be expected but that, because unequipped with weapons for an offensive war, he will be found unprepared to maintain a defensive? We reply, that, on the contrary, his mind is too well strengthened to be carried by the assaults of an enemy. We are speaking of a man who, although he may not have studied what are called the evidences of Christianity, has been long acting on the supposition that the Bible is divine, obeying its precepts as the precepts of God, and relying on its promises as the promises of God. And we can be sure of such a man, that he has not proceeded in this course without becoming his own witness to the truth of the Scriptures; acting on the precepts, he has found himself partaker of the promises, and thus has obtained simple, irresistible evidence that the book is true, and therefore divine.
2. See next how this peace will strengthen the heart, or the affections. It is through our not setting the standard of Christian privilege sufficiently high, that even believers are so often overcome, whether by the world or the flesh. If they aimed at what we are sure they might acquire — an abiding, elevating sense of God's love and favour; an actual delight in Him; and such an anticipation of heavenly joys as would make them already dwellers in His presence; they would have comparatively no relish for base and transient pleasures, and would therefore be little moved by the solicitations which now too frequently prevail. If the heart were thoroughly and deeply engaged in religion, they might oppose, as it were, pleasures to pleasures, riches to riches, honours to honours — the pleasures, riches, honours, which God alone can bestow, to those which are proffered by the world; and thus would they be attached to the service of piety, by the very same ties which attach others to the service of sin, even the ties of inclination and preference. It ought to be thus; and it would be thus, if greater heed were given to religion, as an internal, vital, happy-making thing. But so long as Christians remain in a languid, half-hearted condition, slaving through duties in place of finding them privileges, talking about heaven in place of obtaining its foretastes, obeying God as a master, in place of delighting in Him as a Father, — what wonder if the world often gain an easy victory, so that what is ignoble attracts them, what is transient detains, what is worthless fascinates? And it is in thorough agreement with these statements that the psalmist in our text identifies strength with peace. We have shown you, that in this peace are included an abiding sense of Divine favour, a firm hope of future happiness, and such earnests of heaven as shall stimulate, whilst they gratify, the Christian. And what power will the world, with its vanities, its gauds, its riches, its pleasures, have over an individual in whom this peace abides?
III. How This PEACE OF GOD MAY BE OBTAINED. If you would enjoy this peace, you must cultivate a devotional habit — a habit of communion with your Father which is in heaven. We can hardly doubt that one great reason why Christians make so little progress, and have so little enjoyment is, that they are so scant in their private devotions. God is ready to bestow great blessings; but then they must be asked for, and importuned for. "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it." We have but to enlarge our desires; and God will increase His supplies. Let none of us then wonder if he have not much of that Divine "peace which passeth all understanding," and if, in consequence, he be often overcome by temptations and disturbed by fears, if he be little in the habit of secret prayer and meditation. It is a good thing to be diligent in public worship; but nothing can make up for negligence in private. You may learn and obtain much in church, and so forsake not the assembling of yourselves; but it is, after all, in the closet that you may expect the best lessons, and the finest glimpses of immortality. See to it, then, ye who name the name of Christ, that ye be frequent and fervent in private prayer to God. Thus shall our text be fulfilled in your experience, and the Lord Himself shall "bless you with peace."
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace.