The LORD is pleased with those who fear Him, who hope in His loving devotion.
check by a predominance of carnivorous insects. In all the mountain meadows, it has been ascertained that the species of carnivorous are at least four times as numerous as the species of herb-eating insects. Thus, in the absence of birds, which are rare in Switzerland, the pastures are preserved from a terrible scourge. To one not aware of this check, it may seem surprising how the verdure of the Alpine pastures should be so rich and luxuriant, considering the immense development of insect-life. The grass, whenever the sun shines, is literally swarming with them - butterflies of gayest hues, and beetles of brightest iridescence; and the air is filled with their loud murmurs. I remember well the vivid feeling of God's gracious providence which possessed me when passing over the Wengern Alp, at the foot of the Jung Frau, and seeing, wherever I rested on the green turf, the balance of nature so wonderfully preserved between the herb which is for man's food, and the moth before which he is crushed. Were the herbivorous insects allowed to multiply to their full extent, in such favorable circumstances as the warmth of the air and the verdure of the earth in Switzerland produce, the rich pastures which now yield abundant food for upwards of a million and a half of cattle would speedily become bare and leafless deserts. Not only in their power of growing without cultivation, but also in the peculiarities of their structure, the mountain grasses proclaim the hand of God. Many of them are viviparous. Instead of producing flowers and seeds, as the grasses in the tranquil valleys do, the young plants spring from them perfectly formed. They cling round the stem, and form a kind of blossom. In this state they remain until the parent stalk withers and falls prostrate on the ground, when they immediately strike root and form independent grasses. This is a remarkable adaptation to circumstances; for it is manifest that were seeds, instead of living plants, developed in the ears of the mountain grasses, they would be useless in the stormy region where they grow. They would be blown away, far from the places they were intended to clothe, to spots foreign to their nature and habits, and thus the species would speedily perish." Ruskin says, "Look up to the higher hills, where the waves of green roll silently into long inlets among the shadows of the pines, and we may perhaps know the meaning of those quiet words of Psalm 147:8." - R.T.
Psalm 103:2): — Man's pleasure in God's works, God's pleasure in man's renewed spirit — these are the two themes suggested by these words.
The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy.: — Great kings are wont to have their favourite objects, in which they delight with a peculiar pleasure. Many monarchs have gloried in "the strength of a horse." Their squadrons of cavalry have been their confidence. Others have taken more delight in "the legs of a man." The thews and sinews of their soldiery have been their boast. You must have noticed in the Assyrian sculptures the importance that was attached by the workmen and by the monarch also to "the legs of a man." They represent the warriors as brawny and strong, swift in running, and firm in holding their place in the day of battle. But our God takes no delight in cavalry or infantry, no armies of horse or foot soldiers give him any gladness; the Lord takes pleasure in very different persons from these. His delight, His joy, His solace, — if we may use such a word, — are found in other company than that which is martial, He turns His eyes quite another way.
I. THE OBJECTS OF DIVINE FAVOUR AS HERE DISTINGUISHED. They are distinguished —
1. From physical strength.
2. From mental vigour.
3. From self-reliance.
4. From any mere capacity for service which exists in any of us, whoever we may be.
II. THE OBJECTS OF DIVINE FAVOUR AS THEY ARE HERE DESCRIBED.
1. These are things which relate to God. God's favour is displayed to those who fear Him, and who hope in His mercy. Thou art truly what thou art towards God; and God regards thee according to what thou art in reference to Himself.
2. This description of character applies to true servants of God in their earliest and weakest form.
3. It comprises the noblest form of religion in the very highest degree of it. Let us grow as we may, we shall always fear God. Perfect love casteth out the fear that hath torment, but not that filial fear which is here meant, that child-like reverence and holy awe of the Most High; that shall grow and shall deepen, world without end. And as to hope, why, we had hope when we began our spiritual life; but we have hope still, and that hope will continue with us, — I will not say in heaven, though I think it will, for there is something to hope for in the disembodied state, we shall hope for the day of resurrection; and there will be something to hope for even in the resurrection, for, throughout the ages we shall have a good hope that still we shall be "for ever with the Lord."
4. The persons favoured of God are represented as a sort of sacred blending of different characters. These two things, fear of God and hope in His mercy, go well together, and what God hath joined, let no man put asunder.
III. THE BLESSINGS IMPLIED IN THIS DIVINE FAVOUR. If you fear the Lord, and hope in His mercy, God takes as much delight in you as you do in your dear child; and far more, because God's is an infinite mind, and from it there comes infinite delight, so that He views you with infinite complacency. Can you believe it? You do not view yourself so; I hope that you do not, but God sees you in Christ. He sees that in you that is yet to be in you. He sees in you that which will make you to grow into a heavenly being, and therefore He takes delight in you.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. That men have an instinctive pleasure in looking on the beauties spread before their eyes in the visible world is sometimes disputed, and yet this enjoyment shows itself in very unlikely places, and among classes that have had no special training. The poor, ragged, ill washed child of a London court finds a pleasure it takes no pains to conceal in flowers (when it sees them), in the bright, fresh, green leaves of the early spring, in the meadow dappled with daisies, and in the field ablaze with buttercups. The rudest and most untrained minds are not insensible to the beauties of a summer's sunset, to the flashing mirror of the sea, or to the hoary grandeur of mountains. The same feeling exists, in a greater or less degree, among uncivilized peoples; and some of them have expressed their motions in rude poetic outbursts, as striking as they are spontaneous. It does, however, greatly add to the devout man's delight in all visible things to think of them as the visible words and thoughts of God. In this view of things the Hebrew bards far surpass the sweet singers of all time. To the devout Hebrew God was in all things, and all things spoke of Him. This was their great charm to him, that they helped him to see something of the Lord his God. And to any man who so looks on the visible creation there will never be wanting ladders by which he may climb up to higher and purer thoughts of Him who made all things. That the study of God's works deepens our pleasure in them is the testimony of every student. The more these works are "sought out," so much the more will our delight in them increase. The objects themselves, animate and inanimate, are so manifold that their wonders seem to open before us as we advance. In all we may see God's "excellence in working." That it is possible to educate the eye in looking upon these various works of God, and so of intensifying the delight in them, is obvious. If we never look upon the objects of interest and beauty around us save in a dreamy way, or with a half-shut eye, we miss much of the pleasure which comes from minute, careful, and accurate observation. It surely ought not to be thought a waste of time to consider attentively that which God has thought no waste of His almighty energies to create; and the power of seeing, which alone comes of careful seeing, will bring before us new pleasures with every new revelation. Our very love of our Father who made them all should surely stir us to look at the things around us, and to look with open and patient eyes, until our sight becomes trained by looking, and no touch of the Divine Artist escapes our eager and loving eye.
2. But when I speak of man's pleasure in God's works, I do not forget that God Himself has pleasure in them. The song of the redeemed in heaven proclaims this joy (Revelation 4:11). The song of creation tells us also that as each part of the work appeared before the eye of the Divine Worker, He pronounced it "very good." But God's greatest pleasure is in man's renewed spirit. "The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, and in those that hope in His mercy." The pleasure which men feel in beautiful flowers, in spreading landscapes, in hoary hills, in flashing lakes, and in the great expanse of the outstretched sky or open sea, has no regenerative power. It is felt by men who say that they have no rest in God. They are not insensible to the glories spread before them; they say that they are insensible to that which gives God the greatest pleasure — the renewed heart. Their delight is with the glory which fades before their eyes; God's with that which endureth for ever. To the great Former of all things, beautiful as the earth is, and sky, and sea, one unselfish deed, one sincere and devout prayer, one soul pouring out its holy trust into His ear, gives Him a higher and deeper joy. Nay, "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." Two elements in man's changed nature are spoken of by the psalmist as producing God's pleasure. One is fear, the other is hope. But fear and hope are not opposed to each other. They are one; they spring from the same root; they yield the same flower; they are, in other words, but two sides of the same truth. There is no true fear of God unless you hope in His mercy; there is no true hope in His mercy unless you fear God. The fear and the hope alike give pleasure to Him.
(J. G. Goadby.)
I. A GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF GOD'S PEOPLE.
2. He takes pleasure in their graces, and those heavenly qualifications which are in them.
(1) (2) 4. He takes pleasure in their services. II. UPON WHAT ACCOUNT ESPECIALLY GOD DOES INDEED DELIGHT IN THEM. 1, Their fear of Him. Fear is the aweband of the soul, which restrains it, and keeps it in good order, and preserves it from miscarriage. It is the spur of the soul, which quickens it, and excites it, and provokes it to the doing of good: so much fear of God, so much innocency and uprightness. 2. The second is the grace of hope, or faith, of those that hope in His mercy. As the Lord takes pleasure in the former, so in this likewise. He delights in His servants more especially, as they give greater testimonies of their faith and dependence upon Him. The more that any cleave unto Him, the more doth He take care of them, and pleasure in them (Psalm 33:18). (T. Horton, D. D.)
(2) 4. He takes pleasure in their services. II. UPON WHAT ACCOUNT ESPECIALLY GOD DOES INDEED DELIGHT IN THEM. 1, Their fear of Him. Fear is the aweband of the soul, which restrains it, and keeps it in good order, and preserves it from miscarriage. It is the spur of the soul, which quickens it, and excites it, and provokes it to the doing of good: so much fear of God, so much innocency and uprightness. 2. The second is the grace of hope, or faith, of those that hope in His mercy. As the Lord takes pleasure in the former, so in this likewise. He delights in His servants more especially, as they give greater testimonies of their faith and dependence upon Him. The more that any cleave unto Him, the more doth He take care of them, and pleasure in them (Psalm 33:18). (T. Horton, D. D.)
4. He takes pleasure in their services.
II. UPON WHAT ACCOUNT ESPECIALLY GOD DOES INDEED DELIGHT IN THEM. 1, Their fear of Him. Fear is the aweband of the soul, which restrains it, and keeps it in good order, and preserves it from miscarriage. It is the spur of the soul, which quickens it, and excites it, and provokes it to the doing of good: so much fear of God, so much innocency and uprightness.
2. The second is the grace of hope, or faith, of those that hope in His mercy. As the Lord takes pleasure in the former, so in this likewise. He delights in His servants more especially, as they give greater testimonies of their faith and dependence upon Him. The more that any cleave unto Him, the more doth He take care of them, and pleasure in them (Psalm 33:18).
(T. Horton, D. D.)
I. AS TO THE CONCERNS OF OUR SOULS, AND OUR SPIRITUAL AND ETERNAL STATE.
1. We must keep up both a holy dread of God and a humble delight in Him; both a reverence of His majesty, with a fear of incurring His displeasure, and at the same time a joy in His love and grace, and an entire complacency in His beauty and bounty, and that benignity of His which is better than life.
2. We must keep up both a trembling for sin, and a triumphing in Christ, as the propitiation for sin.
3. We must keep up both a jealousy of ourselves, and of our own sincerity; and a grateful thankful sense of God's grace in us, and the workings of that grace.
4. We must keep up both a constant caution over our goings, and a constant confidence in the grace of God.
5. We must keep up both a holy fear lest we come short, and a good hope that through grace we shall persevere.
II. AS TO OUR OUTWARD CONCERNS RELATING TO THE BODY, AND THE LIFE THAT NOW IS.
1. When the world smiles upon us, and our affairs in it prosper, yet then we must keep up a holy fear, and not be too confident in our pleasing prospects; not flatter ourselves with hopes of the great advancement and long continuance of our peace and prosperity; but balance the hopes which sense suggests with the fears which reason and religion will suggest.
2. When the world frowns upon us, and we are crossed, and disappointed, and perplexed in our affairs, then we must keep up a good hope, and not be inordinately cast down, no, not in our melancholy prospects, about our health, our safety, our name, our relations, and our effects in the world.(1) Hope in God's power: be fully assured of this, that how imminent soever the danger is, He can prevent it; how great soever the straits are, He can extricate us out of them, can find out a way for us in an untracked wilderness, and open springs of water to us in a dry and barren land: for with Him nothing is impossible, nor is His arm ever shortened, nor His wisdom nonplussed.(2) Hope in His providence; and believe not only that He can do anything, but that He does do everything, and whatever the event is, God does therein perform the thing flirt is appointed for us, and takes cognizance of us and our affairs, how mean and despicable soever we are.(3) Hope in His pity and tender compassions; which, in the day of your grief and fear, you are to look upon yourselves as the proper objects of.(4) Hope in His promise; that word of His upon which He hath caused us to hope, and which we have all the reason in the world to build upon, for not one iota or tittle of it shall fall to the ground. Though he has not promised to deliver us from that particular evil we have a dread of, or to give us that particular comfort and success we are desirous of, yet He has promised that nothing shall harm them who are followers of Him; nay, that all things shall "work together for good," etc.
III. AS TO THE PUBLIC CONCERNS OF THE CHURCH OF GOD, AND OUR OWN LAND AND NATION.
1. We have always reason to keep up a holy fear as to public affairs, and to be apprehensive of trouble before us, even when things look most promising.(1) We are a provoking people. Atheism, vice, etc.(2) We are a divided people; and what can be expected, but that a kingdom divided against itself should be brought to desolation?(3) God has told us that in the world we shall have tribulation; all the disciples of Christ must count upon it, and not flatter ourselves with hopes of an uninterrupted tranquillity anywhere on this side heaven.
2. There are three things which may encourage our hope, and keep the balance even against all our fears, as to the concerns both of the Protestant Churches abroad and our own nation.(1) The word which God has spoken to us; which (whatever other props our hopes may be supported with) is the great foundation on which they must be built, and then they are fixed.(2) The work which God has begun among us.(3) The wonders which He has wrought for us.
( Matthew Henry.)
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