I have set the LORD always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
(1) a sense of Divine privilege in having God as his chief Good; and
(2) a confiding, hopeful prayer for deliverance from death.
Not, of course, from death altogether; he could not hope to be finally delivered from the grave. The prayer therefore, must have been for deliverance, from impending, danger, from death that was then. threatened at that time, and for being conducted into and preserved in "the path of life." The application which has been made of the ninth and tenth verses to Christ by Peter and Paul has led to a misunderstanding of the original sense. They say that the prayer was fulfilled in Christ, and not in David; that David did see corruption, and that Christ did not. But the best Hebrew scholars say that it is a confident prayer, not to be given over to death, but to be preserved in the way of life. We must understand, of course, death at present; for it could not mean death altogether, nor deliverance from the grave after death. The general subject of these verses, then, is - The confidence of the psalmist's faith in the future, because he had chosen God as his chief Good.
I. THE SENSE OF GOD'S PRESENCE INSPIRES A FEELING OF SAFETY. (Ver. 8.) "Not in the moment of peril only, but at all times has he his eye fixed upon God." "God in David's eyes is no abstraction, but a Person, real, living, and walking at his side," and able to protect him from danger. Have we such a sense of companionship with God? I shall not be moved - neither in character, nor in purpose, nor in work.
II. HE REJOICED IS THE CONFIDENCE THAT GOD WOULD NOT ALLOW HIM TO PERISH. (Vers. 9, 100 "Flesh" here, as always, means the living body - never means a corpse. "Shall rest in hope," equivalent to "shall dwell in safety;" and must be understood of this life. No stress can be laid on the word "leave," which means "give over to." He is expressing the confidence "that God will not leave him to perish, will not give him up to be the prey of the grave, which was the design of his enemies. The lessons for us - that God's time is our time, and that he will not abandon us to our spiritual enemies, but will afford us effectual protection.
III. HE REJOICED THAT GOD WOULD MAKE KNOWN TO HIM THE WAY TO LIFE. (Ver. 11.) Not only preserve him in life, but lead him on to that life whose joy is beholding the Divine face, and partaking of the everlasting pleasures which are at his right hand. The idea of immortality springs out of the sense of his relationship to God; for he could not think that such a relationship could end with death. If we are the sons of God, that is the strongest guarantee that we shall continue to partake of God's life, rich and manifold and everlasting. Christ said, "Because I live, ye shall live also." This passage has its highest fulfilment when applied to the resurrection of Christ. - S.
I have set the Lord always before me.
I. IT IS OF THE GREATEST IMPORTANCE WHAT THAT IS WHICH IS CONTINUALLY BEFORE US. That which is constantly in a man's eye must help very largely to shape him. I have heard a very significant criticism on a certain picture, to the effect that, though it was a good piece of artistic work, it was not a good picture to live with. You would not wish to have hanging up in your sitting room, and constantly in sight of your children, a picture of Herodias with the head of John the Baptist, or of a crazed mother in the act of murdering her babe. You try to keep pictures of wholesome subjects as well as of beautiful forms before your children's eyes; because you know that they are insensibly educated by familiarity with such things. In an age of few books, men and women learned mostly by the eye. It was not wholly nor mostly idolatry which filled the old churches up with pictures. The visitor to St. Mark's, in Venice, may follow for himself the footsteps of the earlier catechumen; ]passing into the Christian temple through a vestibule of Old Testament history wrought in mosaic pictures, and then reading on the walls and domes within the truths of crucifixion, resurrection, the baptism of the Spirit, and the coming of the Lord to judgment, — all arranged in the order of Christian thought. The peasant who passed over the old wooden bridge over the torrent at Lucerne had daffy before him, in the painted compartments of the bridge, a reminder of that other stream which all must cross sooner or later. Nature sets her mark on character. If her surroundings are gloomy and savage. they impart a sombre tone to the men who live among them: — Men tend to be narrowed or broadened by their daily task. The man who has columns of figures forever before him may easily degenerate into a mere calculating machine. If the thing which is constantly before us is larger and better than ourselves, its hourly presence rebukes our littleness and our badness, and works to assimilate us to itself. If it is worse than ourselves it draws downward. There was philosophy as well as enthusiasm in the apostle's exhortation to run, looking unto Jesus, and in Paul keeping his eye on the prize of his high calling, and reaching forth to that which is before.
II. BUT IT MAY BE ASKED, IS NOT GOD ALWAYS BEFORE US? Can we help its being so? Assuredly. we can. David. does not. say, "The Lord is always," etc.," but, "I have set Him always," etc. His own will and act have had something to do with the matter. He has been at pains to bring God into the foreground, and to keep Him there. Because God is ever manifesting Himself, because every common bush is afire with Him, it does not follow that men recognise the fact. They do not. There is abundance of sweet music, but there are multitudes of people to whom it means no more than the rumble of the carts in the streets.
III. THUS, THEN, GOD WILL NOT BE IN ANY TRUE SENSE BEFORE OUR FACE UNLESS WE SET HIM THERE. It needs special training, determination, and practice. There is a spiritual inertia to be overcome, and a perverse tendency. The bar of steel does not point naturally to the pole, but anywhere. It must be acted on from without, must have magnetic virtue imparted to it. And persistency is needed. I have set the Lord "always" before me. It was not enough that once or twice God was in the line of vision, He was to be kept there. A compass needle would be to a sailor of no more account than a knitting needle, if only by some shock it were made to point northwards. It is the fact of its always pointing there that gives it its value. And it is this fact of persistence which gives value to David's saying. When a man has shut himself up to one thing as the source and strength of his happiness he will find out a great deal about that one thing. Thus did Robinson Crusoe, when he found out that he should have to live on his island. And so is it with men and God.
IV. MANY ARE THE DISCOVERIES WHICH THE MAN WHO SETS THE LORD ALWAYS BEFORE HIM WILL MAKE.
1. He finds Him self-revealed. In the Shinto temples in Japan the shrines contain no altars, pulpits, or pictures, but only a circular steel mirror. What it means is not known. But it would be an appropriate symbol for a Christian shrine. James draws a picture of a man beholding his natural face in a glass. The man who studies God studies self at the same time.
2. It carries with it a power of growth. For God is ever going before us and beckoning us on. A mountain is a constant temptation to climb, and when we find yet higher summits beyond we want to climb them also. And so is it in learning of God.
3. It engenders hope. Amid the darkness and vagueness of the Old Testament future, this Psalm is like a sweet flute note amid the crash and discord of a vast orchestra. I know of nothing more soothing than these verses. "I shall not be moved"; all is well, "because He is at my right hand."
(Marvin Vincent, D. D.)
I. IF WE TURN OUR FACES TO GOD HERE HIS FACE WILL SHINE ON US YONDER. "I have set the Lord always before my eyes." "Before Thy face is fulness of joy." The one is the summing up of the devout man's life on earth. What can the other be but the prophecy of the devout man's life in heaven? Observe how for us, here and now, circumstanced and occupied and distracted as we are, that clear consciousness of God's presence will inevitably fade and shatter unless we are careful to preserve it. "I have set the Lord," — that implies a great deal of definite effort, of fixed will, of stem resistance to and rejection of hindrances and things that come between. God's presence cannot be proved. The consciousness of it depends upon our whole nature. It is what people call a moral thing; and it rises and falls like a sensitive thermometer, if a cloud comes between the bulb and the sun. You can crowd Him out of your minds by plunging yourselves fiercely into your daily duties, however sacred and elevated these may be. No more than the sunshine can be flashed back from a tarnished steel mirror, can the consciousness of God's presence live in an impure soul. And the heart must be kept still, flee from agitation, from the storms of passion and the tyranny of eager desires. A cats paw that ruffles the surface of the lake shatters the image; and unless our hearts are quieted from earth they will never mirror heaven. "Walk thou before Me, and be perfect," is at once a commandment and a promise. And they only are wise who answer, "I will walk before the Lord in the land, and the light of the living." As I have already said, this thrilling and continual consciousness of the Divine presence is the surest basis for the expectation of immortal life. It is too precious to die; it is too great and pure and noble to have anything to fear from the accident of corporal death. So we come to consider that higher form of the Divine presence which is suggested by the contrast in my second text. "In Thy presence is fulness of joy." But that presence is not secured by the individual's efforts, but is poured upon him in its effulgence from the throne itself. If I try to keep God in sight here, yonder He reveals Himself in all His greatness. We are not to understand that that future vision which is all expressed in these words of my second text — "before Thee" — consists in any measure which is analogous to the sight of the body. Nor are we, I suppose, to understand that then, any more than now, we are able to comprehend the incomprehensible and infinite. "The face of God" is the Scriptural expression for that side of the Divine nature which is capable of being manifested by Him, and apprehended by us; and Jesus Christ is the face of God. Yonder it is that we shall see Him as He is; and yonder it is the Christ whom, having not seen we "love," and whom seeing we shall see the Father. There will be, as I suppose, new and unimaginable modes of manifestation, about which the less that we say the wiser we are. For if our experience here on earth teaches us anything, it teaches us that the body shuts us off from as much as it brings us into contact with; and that our senses are but like little slits in some grim old fortress, only wide enough to let in the requisite light and air, and that beyond their limits in both directions there are notes of which the vibrations are too numerous, or too few, in a given time to be apprehended by our ears; and rays in the spectrum at either end, which the human eye cannot see. So that, with new modes of manifestation and new capacities of apprehension, we shall draw nearer and nearer to the sun that we beheld here shining through the mists and the clouds. If we, amidst the shows and gauds of time and the crowds of thronging men and the distractions of our daily occupations, steadfastly seek and see the Lord, and have beams coming from Him, as a light shining in a dark place, He will lift us yonder, and turn the whole benediction of the sunlight Of His face upon us, and, saturated with the brightness, we shall walk in the light of His countenance and be amongst the people of the blessed.
II. IF WE KEEP THE LORD AT OUR RIGHT HAND HE WILL SET US AT HIS RIGHT HAND. The emblem of the "right hand" has a double meaning in Scripture, one part of which applies more to our present and the other to our future. When we speak of having at our right hand anyone, we mean as counsellor, companion, strengthener, ally; as fellow fighter, guide, and defender. And it is in that capacity that we have to set the Lord at our right hand. If we have Him by our sides we are never alone. I suppose that the saddest fate for a man is to live solitary. I suppose that we mortal millions live alone after all companionship; like islands in a waste of ocean, with no communications. Ah! How many of us have known what it is for the one that stood at our right hand to vanish, to change. If we live so companioned, counselled, championed, by a God made present, not by His omnipresence but by our consciousness of it, then be sure of this, that the time will come when He who came to earth, as it were, and stood at our right hand, will lift us to the heavens, and plant us at His. I at His right hand. What does that mean? Let me quote you two or three plain words. "The sheep at His right hand; the goats at His left." It means that. It means favour, acceptance in that great day of account. "And he called his name Benjamin: — the son of his right hand." It means that; paternal love, a yearning heart, a longing to pour all a Father's blessing on the child. And it means that the man, thus acquired and taken to the Father's heart, is distinguished and honoured — "grant that these, my two sons, may sit, the one at Thy right hand, the other at Thy left." Nor must we forget that there is still a loftier conception attached to this emblem of "the right hand," which was not within the horizon of the Psalmist, but is within ours. Jesus Christ our Brother has been exalted to that session at God's right hand, which indicates in disturbance, completed work, royalty and power. And He, hath said, "I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am there ye may be also." So if He is at my right hand, as champion, I shall be at His right hand and share in His dominion.
III. IF WE STAY OURSELVES ON GOD, AMIDST STRUGGLE AND CHANGE HERE, HE WILL GLADDEN US YONDER WITH PERPETUAL JOYS. "Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved." A very humble result to be accomplished by so great a thing as the actual presence of God at a man's side. Only this, that I will be able to keep my place, and stand steadfast. And there is only one thing that will make us steadfast, and that is that we should be, if I might use such a figure, bolted and lashed on to, or rather incorporated into, the changeless steadfastness of the unmoved God. God comes to us here, and is sword and shield; yonder He will be palm and crown. "In Thy presence is fulness of joy." Every faculty and capacity will be satisfied, every yearning met, and nothing left to desire but the continuance which is guaranteed, and the increase as capacity increases, which is as certain. Here there is always something lacking; yonder there is fulness of joy and no satiety. "Pleasures for evermore" — both because there is an uninterrupted succession of such — like the ripples upon a sunlit sea, that all day long come rolling to the beach and break in music and sparkles of light; and because each pleasure is in itself perpetual, seeing that there is no possibility of these delights becoming stale and common. Thus begin with realising the Divine presence. We must begin all this on earth. The seed of heaven is sown in the furrows of this world. Philosophers talk to us about the law of continuity. That applies in regard to the life here and the life hereafter. If you ever are to come into the blessedness of the life yonder, you must begin with the life of faith in Jesus Christ here and now.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
(W. Page Roberts, M. A.)
(J. E. Vernon, M. A.)
1. Those who set the Lord always before them have an habitual impression of His all-seeing eye and immediate presence. David, we know, had this habitual impression. He was aware how highly important to him was this near presence of the Almighty, and what a beneficial, influence it shed over all his prospects.
2. It implies an habitual regard to the Lord's will as the rule of our actions. Faithful Christians must make it their constant study to ascertain what is the will of God respecting themselves, and then set this will before them as the rule of their life. It should not only be a consideration with them, but their chief consideration. Those who make the will of God their rule cannot err. They look at it as sailors to the pole star, in order that they may direct their course thereby.
3. It implies making the Lord's glory the end of all our aims. The glory of the Lord is that one object of surpassing importance which absorbs all other considerations. To set the Lord always before us is to keep this end always in view.
4. It implies making Him the object of our trust and dependence in all circumstances.
1. The practice of setting the Lord always before us is a bright evidence of the sincerity of our faith. Faith is a living and abiding principle, constantly in operation. Faith is that principle within the man which realises and embodies everything which is spiritual.
2. A constant sense of the presence of God is a sure means of counteracting the influence of the fear of man, which bringeth a snare.
3. A sense of the Lord's constant presence would be a spur to our diligence and activity in endeavouring to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. A persuasion that the eye of the Lord is in every place, beholding the evil and the good, would have a wonderful effect in exciting the runners of the Christian race to put forth their utmost powers to strain every nerve, that they may come in first to the goal. Now see a few lights in which you should make it your habit to set the Lord always before you —(1)You are directed to set before yourselves the Lord as your chief good, the highest object of your aims.(2) We are to look upon God, in Christ, as our owner. God possesses a right over us as our Maker and Preserver.(3) We are to set the Lord Jesus before us as a Judge. We should not merely give a general assent to the truth of the judgment which will hereafter take place, and that Christ will occupy the throne then, but we are to consider Him as seated now upon the tribunal, and taking cognisance of all our transactions.
(T. Chambers, M. A.)
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
I. WHAT IT IS TO SET THE LORD ALWAYS BEFORE US. It is to maintain a supreme and habitual regard for God, according to the relations which He sustains towards us. In the world, if a man has fixed his supreme regard on wealth, though he may often think and talk on other subjects, yet he never forgets this one. Let anything occur that will affect it, and you will always find that his object is before him. Now, it is in the same way that we set the Lord always before us. We shall always regard Him as infinitely perfect — as our Lawgiver and Sovereign; as our Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor; as our Redeemer and Sanctifier; as a covenant God; as our Judge and Rewarder. Now, so to habitually regard God as to secure the practical influence of all these perfections and relations of God upon us is to set the Lord always before us.
II. THE ADVANTAGE OF SO DOING.
1. In the daily business of our life — to keep us diligent, just in our dealings, and honest in all our transactions.
2. In the more unimportant and ordinary occurrences of life — to keep us faithful in life's little things, contented, cheerful, patient, devout.
3. In temptation we shall not be moved. It guards the heart against the world and Satan.
4. In holy obedience we shall be steadfast therein.
5. Preparation for all the scenes of life, for death and heaven. In prosperity he will remember God; in adversity he will trust God; in death he will be without fear; in the judgment day he will have confidence. And we can thus set God always before us. Is it safe or wise ever to forget Him? Do we thus set God always before us? What will they do from whose thoughts God is habitually excluded, when He shall be revealed in the clear light of eternity?
(M. W. Taylor, D. D.)
I. THE FIRST PREDICTION IS THAT CHRIST, WHEN HE SHOULD COME, WOULD "SET JEHOVAH CONTINUALLY BEFORE HIM," i.e. He would live on earth realising by faith the presence of an unseen God, to dwell continually in His sight. Our Lord did this. He said, "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me."
II. JEHOVAH WOULD BE AT HIS RIGHT HAND. We find our Lord continually sustaining Himself by the consoling presence of His Father. And all who tread in His steps may share in His consolation.
III. HIS HEART WOULD BE GLAD. How could He be otherwise, when He knew the resources of the Father? Our Lord walked with God on earth, rejoicing in hope of the glory that should be revealed. So also may we, and do we?
IV. HIS FLESH SHOULD REST IN HOPE. This implies —
1. His death. His death was predicted no less than His triumph. He looked forward to His death, and repeatedly foretold it. And He resolutely met it. Let us ask for grace to enter into His spirit.
2. The limitation of death's dominion. "I have power," said He, "to lay it (My life) down, and I have power to take it again." "I lay it down of Myself." He did as He had said. He took again that dishonoured body, to be dishonoured no more.
V. GOD WOULD GUIDE HIM TO THE PATH OF LIFE. "Thou wilt show Me," etc. The way of the grave did not seem the gate of life, but in reality it was so. Conclusion: He will bring us there. Decide for Him now. Sympathise with Him in His glory.
(Baptist W. Noel.)
I. AS OUR PROTECTOR. Our religious course is a constant warfare. We need the courage which only the presence of the Lord can impart.
II. AS OUR LEADER.
III. AS OUR EXAMPLE.
IV. AS CULT OBSERVER. Nothing escapes His notice. A heathen philosopher admonished his disciples to imagine that the eye of some illustrious personage was always upon them. But what is the eye of Plato to that of God? What stimulus this to zeal.
I. WHAT IT IS TO SET GOD ALWAYS BEFORE US. Represent to yourself the proceedings of men, who have proposed to themselves as their main pursuit the possession of some worldly attainment. Observe in what manner they set their object, be it what it may, always before their eyes. Contemplate the votary of science. Behold him absorbed in laborious researches: in the investigation of causes and effects; in the construction of theories, and the explanation of the phenomena of nature. Behold him day after day bending all the powers of his mind to the invention and application of mechanism; to the arrangement and superintendence of experiments; to the development and illustration of philosophical truth. At home and abroad, in cities and in the fields, in solitude and in society, behold him steadily bearing in mind the object to which he has dedicated his life. Survey the votary of ambition. Behold every nerve, every faculty, upon the stretch to supplant, to undermine, or to surpass his rivals, and to attain the dizzy preeminence to which he aspires. Receive then a lesson from the children of this world (Luke 16:8). Then wilt thou discern what it is to set the Lord thy God always before thee.
II. THE DIFFERENT CHARACTERS UNDER WHICH IT IS OUR DUTY TO DO THIS.
1. Regard Him as Creator. If you deem life a blessing, remember Him —
2. As your Preserver.
3. As your Redeemer and Sanctifier.
4. As your Sovereign and your Judge. See then that you obey Him, lest you be destroyed forever.
III. GIVE EXAMPLES OF THE DUTY OF THUS SETTING THE LORD ALWAYS BEFORE YOU.
1. In prosperity — by being grateful to Him.
2. In adversity, sickness, and death — by trusting Him, submitting to Him patiently, remembering how little your sufferings in comparison with your sins. Look up to Him and be comforted.
3. In youth — by not withholding from the planter the prime of the fruit. When wilt thou serve thy God if not now?
4. In age — by remembering that the night cometh; work, while it is called today; seek mercy while yet it may be found.
5. Under all circumstances, in common duties, as well as in specially religious acts. If you are cultivating your farm; if you are selling your articles in the market or in a shop; if you are serving a master in your daily labour; if you are managing the concerns of your friend or of your country: remember that God is contemplating all your motive, all your thoughts, all your words, all your actions; and that for all your motives and thoughts and words and actions you will have to render an account at the judgment seat of Christ (Revelation 20:12).
(T. Gisborne, M. A.)
I. LIVING IN THE LORD'S PRESENCE ALWAYS. "I have set...always before me." Now, this means —
1. That we should make the Lord's presence the greatest of all facts to us. Jesus did so. He saw God everywhere. From morning to evening, until you fall asleep "as in the embraces of your God," see Him everywhere. This is happy living.
2. The making of God's glory the one object of our lives.
3. So to live that the presence of God shall be the rule and support of our obedience. So Jesus did. The Master's eye is to many servants most important, to make them careful and diligent. For many are eye servers and men pleasers. But how should we live if God were seen looking on? He is looking on.
4. As the source from which we are to derive solace and comfort under every trial. This it was that made Him suffer and never complain.
5. That we are to hold perpetual communion with God. He was always in converse with the Father, and He could say, "I knew that Thou hearest Me always."
6. We must follow this life, because of our delight and joy in it. Such a life cannot be lived in any other manner. If you find walking with God dull, then you have not the first essentials of such a life. You must be born again. If you are the Lord's you will delight in living near to Him. You may lose your roll, like Christian in the arbour, and you may go back again and find it, lint it is very hard going back over the same ground. The hardest part of the road to heaven is that which has to be traversed three times: once when you go over it at first, a second time when you have to return with weeping to find your lost evidences, and then again when you have to make up for lost time. Abiding with God creates peace like a river.
II. TRUSTING ALWAYS IN THE LORD'S PRESENCE, "Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved."
1. With any regret or remorse as to the past. Christ had many sorrows but no regrets.
2. From our consistency in the way of true religion.
3. With terror.
4. By temptation, so as to be swept into surprising sin.
5. So as to fail at last. Conclusion:
1. You who are not Christians, you are not happy. Set the Lord before you.
2. You who are not Christians, but think yourselves happy. How flail the pillar on which your happiness rests.
3. You Christians who are not happy; here is counsel for you.
4. You happy Christians, you can be happier still by coming nearer to God, This is heaven below.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved
I. THE EFFORT OF FAITH. "I have set the Lord always before me." It took a dead lift of conscious effort for the Psalmist to keep himself continually in touch with that unseen God. This is the very essence of true religion. Mark how the Psalmist came to this effort. It was because his whole soul clave to God, with the intelligent and reasonable conviction and apprehension that in God alone was all he needed. If a man does not think about God and His love it is all one as if he had not Him and it.
II. THE ALLY OF FAITH. The second portion of the text is to be interpreted as the consequence of the effort. "He is at my right hand." The Psalmist means that by the turning of his thoughts to God and the effort he makes — the effort of faith, imagination, love, and desire — to bring himself as close as he can to the great heart of the Father, he realises that presence at his side in an altogether different manner from that in which it is given to stones and rocks and birds and beasts and godless men. That Divine Presence is the source of all strength and blessedness. "At my right hand"; then I stand at His left, and close under the arm that carries the shield; and close by my instrument of activity, to direct my work; my Protector, my Ally, my Director.
III. THE COURAGEOUS STABILITY OF FAITH. "Not be moved." That is true all round, in regard of all the things which may move and shake a man. The secret of a quiet heart is to keep ever near God. We shall not be moved by circumstances. How quietly we may live above the storms if we only live in God. The Psalmist feels that the great change from life to death will not move him, in so far as his union with God is concerned. A realisation of true communion with God is the guarantee that the man who has it shall never die.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
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