O LORD, I love the house where You dwell, the place where Your glory resides.
Psalm 26:8; Psalm 27:4; and Psalm 69:9! Compare the historian's record of his words to Zadok (2 Samuel 15:25), and still more in 1 Chronicles 29:2, 3." Undoubtedly, thus read and compared, the Psalms and the history mutually throw light upon and confirm each other. But in following out our plan in this section - of dealing with each psalm as a unity - we find this, as well as all the rest, furnishing material for pulpit exposition, which we could ill afford to lose. Our topic is - Assailed integrity's final appeal.
I. WE HAVE HERE THE CHARACTER OF AN UPRIGHT MAN, SKETCHED BY HIMSELF. It may not be a very wholesome exercise for a man to be engaged in - to sketch a moral portraiture of himself. Painters have often painted their own portraits; that requires but an outward gaze on one's outer self; but to delineate one's own likeness morally requires much introspection. Few can carry on much of that without becoming morbid through the process; and fewer still, perhaps, have fidelity enough to do it adequately and correctly. Yet there may be circumstances under which such abnormal work becomes even necessary (as we shall point out presently). And when such is the case, it is well if we can honestly point to such features of character and life as are presented to us here.
1. The psalmist has a goodly foundation on which his life was built up.
(1) Trust in Jehovah (ver. 1).
(2) God's loving-kindness (ver. 3).
(3) God's truth (ver. 3); i.e. God's faithfulness.
Note: That all the supports of the psalmist's integrity were outside himself. Happy is the man that, under all the circumstances of life, can stay his mind and heart on Divine faithfulness and love. If such underlying props cease to sustain, moral and spiritual worth will soon pine from lack of motive and hope. It is one of the evils of the day that some of our most popular novelists delineate religion without God.
2. The life built up on this foundation was one which may with advantage be imitated. It was a life of:
(1) Integrity (ver. 11).
(2) Straightforward progress (ver. 1). No sliding.
(3) Avoidance of evil associations (vers. 4, 5).
(4) Cultivation of holy worship, song, and thanksgiving in the sanctuary (vers. 6-8, 12).
(a) Those to whom God is the support of their life, will show a life worthy of such support.
(b) Those who most value communion with God and a life hidden with him, will most fully appreciate and most diligently cultivate that stimulus and comfort which come from mingling with God's people in the worship of the sanctuary.
II. THE MOST UPRIGHT OF MEN MAY BE MISUNDERSTOOD, UNAPPRECIATED, MISREPRESENTED, AND ASSAILED. Speaking roughly and generally, it is no doubt true that, on the whole, a man's reputation will be the reflection of what he is, and that most men go for what they are worth. And yet, so long as there are envious hearts, jealous dispositions, unbridled tongues, few can be regarded as absolutely safe from detraction and slander. Our Lord Jesus implies and even states as much as this (cf. Matthew 5:44; Matthew 10:25; Matthew 18:6, 7; John 15:18). See Peter's words (1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 4:14); see Paul's words (Romans 12:18, 19). Paul had to boar much in the way of depreciation from some who even denied his apostleship. Job was surrounded with "miserable comforters," who thought, by defaming him, to defend God! Such trials are hard to bear. They may arise
(1) from the occasional foibles of a good man being magnified by the slanderer into sins;
(2) from the utter impossibility of bad men reading aright the character of the just and pure. Having no virtue themselves, they cannot credit others with any. "Doth Job fear God for nought?" "He hath a devil," etc. Many can say the words in Psalm 56:5.
III. IT IS AN INFINITE RELIEF, UNDER SUCH CIRCUMSTANCES, THAT THE RELIEVER CAN APPEAL TO HIS GOD. The whole psalm is such an appeal. True, the Infinite Eye can discern flaws and faults where we suspect none; but then the same perfect gaze discerns the desire after being right and pure and true, however far the believer may be from realizing his own ideal. The suppliant has to do, moreover, with One who never misunderstands, and whose glory is in his loving-kindness and truth. And from a Christian point of view we must remember that we have a High Priest who was in all points tried like as we are, yet without sin, and who can therefore pity what is frail, and pardon what is wrong. What a mercy to have such a throne of grace to which to flee
IV. THE APPEAL WILL BE MARKED BY SPECIFIC ENTREATY. Here there are four lines of supplication.
1. That God would vindicate him, and not let him be mixed up in confusion with the men whose sin he hates (vers. 1, 9, 10). He looks to God, as Job did, as his Vindicator (Job 19:25).
2. That God would search and prove him (ver. 2; cf. Psalm 139:23, 24).
3. That God would purify him (ver. 3). So the word here rendered "try" indicates. He is upright before men, but he does not pretend to be perfect before God.
4. That God would entirely deliver him from the surroundings of ungenial and unholy men (vers. 9, 10). Whether the psalmist intended any reference to a future state or no, the believer now cannot help so applying the words. Who could endure the thought of evil and good always being mixed up together? The Divine mandate is, "Let both grow together until the harvest" (Matthew 13:13). Then will come the final severance.
V. THE RESULT OF SUCH APPEAL WILL NOT BE FRUITLESS OR VAIN. (Ver. 12.) "His prayer has been heard; he is safe; he stands on the open, level table-land, where he has room to move, and where his enemies cannot hem him in; and therefore he fulfils the resolve made before (ver. 7), and publicly pours out his thanksgivings to God" (Perowne). Whoever thus lays his complaints before God will find deliverance in God's own appointed time; we must leave, however, the "when" with the great Defender. Either
(1) on earth in our day,
(2) on earth after our day, or
(3) in heaven, God will bring us and our reputation out to the light. He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday (Psalm 37:5, 6). - C.
Psalm 42:1, 2). There are those who cannot remember the time when they did not love the habitation of God's house; others have found, perhaps late in life, what blessings are for them there. But let us note some of the reasons in which this love of the house of the Lord is founded.
I. THE OBJECT OF THE PSALMIST'S AFFECTION. It is "the habitation of Thy house and," etc. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh," and when anything is thoroughly loved it is very hard to put into one or two words all that you want to say; language seems to fail. Hence, again and again does the Psalmist tell of his affection for the house of God.
Lord, I have loved the habitation of Thy house.
I. AS IT RESPECTS GOD. If there be a Supreme Being, a Creator of the race, worship should be rendered to Him, both private and public. The natural sentiments of mankind universally attest this. And now that revelation has been given, the light of the Gospel has come, we are inexcusable if we do not obey the desire. God does not need it, but is willing to accept it.
II. AS IT CONCERNS THE WORLD. Independently of its effect on the moral principles of the race, it tends to peace and order, it humanises and civilises, it strengthens the bonds of the social relation and brings out the best that is in man.
III. AS IT CONCERNS OURSELVES. We are parts of a great whole, each with duties to the rest. Public worship aids in these. It gives warmth to piety and adds solemnity to moral virtue. As members of the universal Church, we adore the God and Father of us all, through the Redeemer of the race, by the sanctifying Spirit in whom we all have access.
(Hugh Blair, D. D.)
II. HIS PROFESSION OF THIS AFFECTION. Some people make no profession; that they make none is their main profession. Let them take care lest, if now they regard not the Lord, He at the last them: a poor thing this. But how different was the Psalmist's oft-repeated avowal.
III. SOME OF THE REASONS FOR THIS PROFESSION. They have to do with present enjoyment and hope of the future.
I. THERE I FIRST LEARNED TO KNOW MYSELF AND THEE. There has been rest since you knew the worst of yourself, and knew that God knew it, and pitied and loved yon still.
II. THERE I HAVE LEARNT MOST RICHLY THE MEANING OF THY DISCIPLINE AND FOUND STRENGTH TO ENDURE. Some of you have gone thither crushed by burdens, pressed by temptations, beggared by losses, bewildered by difficulties; ready to cry, I can strive no longer, I am worn out, I give up the battle at last in despair. And then blessed words have seemed to stream down on you from the height, with a soothing sweetness, with an invigorating force such as no words which you have ever heard elsewhere have conveyed.
III. FOR THERE I WAS GUIDED INTO THY MOST BLESSED SERVICE.
IV. THERE I FOUND MEAT AND FRUITFUL FELLOWSHIP, and so did those I love best. We little estimate what the house of the Lord has been worth to our souls. As little do we measure its worth to our homes: what peace, unity, charity it has engendered; what wandering, schism, and bitterness it has spared.
(J. Baldwin Brown, B. A.)
1. Because we love Him whose house it is.
2. Because of the exercises there performed: prayer, reading, and exposition of the Word, praise.
3. Because of the company we meet there: God's children, angels, God Himself.
4. Because of blessing received there: pardon, guidance, comfort, joy.
II. HOW THIS AFFECTION SHOULD BE SHOWN.
1. By regular attendance.
2. By entering heartily into the services.
3. By using our influence to bring others.
4. By contributing to maintain the house and worship of God.
I. OUR HIGHEST BEING IS DEPENDENT ON OUR CONCEPTION OF THE CHARACTER OF GOD. If there is no power outside a man greater than himself whose law he recognises and to whom he responds, then, saving the law of the state and the convention of society, he is subject to no law, he is the free creature of his passions. But if man needs an authority outside self to control his selfish passions, he needs an ideal standard above that of common attainment if he is to reach to higher moral excellence. With a lofty ideal, a standard above ourselves, we are always being dissatisfied with ourselves and forced to make efforts to improve. Men may rise towards their God; they cannot rise above Him. One thing more, man needs also within himself an impulse to work, for virtue is often very hard unless you have some motive which shall lead to higher desires. If we turn from theory to history and to personal experience, is it not a fact that morality has risen or gone down just in proportion as faith in God has been strong or feeble? Even so calm and unprejudiced an observer as Darwin said that with the more civilised races the conviction of the existence of an all-seeing deity has had a potent influence on the advancement of morality.
II. THIS FAITH IN GOD IS TO A GREAT EXTENT DEPENDENT UPON PUBLIC WORSHIP. In this busy distracting age, were there no stated times for public worship, men would run great risk of forgetting God and becoming avowed atheists. If, then, the life of faith largely depends on Divine worship, and upon the life of faith depends the highest well-being of society, then everyone who by his example encourages the neglect of public worship, whatever be his motive, is contributing to the degradation of his country, while in many cases he is securing his own. And while attending service ourselves, we should do our utmost also to induce others to be present; to be rid of all which keeps men away from the house of God; and to acquire everything that may properly attract them there.
(Canon Page Roberts.)
Homilist.I. WORSHIP IS AN INSTITUTION FOR OUR INSTRUCTION. Not only is intellectual enlightenment gained, but a deep insight also into many weighty truths, a juster discernment of right and wrong, an intimate acquaintance with the state of our own heart, the need of salvation and growth in grace.
II. IT RE-CONFIRMS OUR GOOD RESOLUTIONS. They need to be again and again renewed. In the congregation we enter into the communion of saints, and are mentally incited to keep our vows. We join a brotherhood possessing the same frailties and having the same needs. The inequalities of life, so apparent in the world, vanish here, where all are drawn with the same bonds of love, and inclined to encourage and assist each other on the way of life.
III. IT RENEWS AND STRENGTHENS OUR RELIGIOUS FEELING. We often approach a service with the world still about us, with trouble and sorrow surging round. In the sanctuary, prayer and praise and the Word have calmed our minds, raised us to a higher plane, given us a truer sense of the proportion of things, juster views of God and His dealings.
Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.I. DAVID HAD AN AFFECTION FOR THE SANCTUARY.
1. An ardent affection.
2. A constant affection.
3. A practical affection.
II. REASONS FOR THIS AFFECTION. Because of —
1. The Proprietor's residence there.
2. The company it furnishes.
3. The blessings it affords,
4. The habits it induces.
(Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)
I. THE DUTY OF REVERENT CARE FOR THE EXTERNALS OF WORSHIP.
1. It may be urged that it is not right to affirm that an ordinance suited to an early age of civilisation must continue, notwithstanding the advance of human knowledge. But, at the same time, it should not be forgotten, that that part of the ceremonial law connected with the fabric of the temple had in it an element of stability.
2. It may be alleged that what was necessary to draw the minds of the Jews from the tawdry splendours of the Canaanitish worship is unnecessary in these days of Christian enlightenment. But what was attractive in the old beliefs was Probably a remnant of the old tradition of reverence to God which had never wholly died out amongst the heathen.
3. It may be asserted that the spiritual nature of the Gospel is entirely alien from a system that appeals to the senses and enlists the imagination. But it can be answered, that the profoundest theological reasons may be adduced for a worship and adoration appealing to every power of humanity: as witness the early Christian services, the Epistles, the Catacombs; and when the taste and bearing of Greece combined with the practical skill of Italy to erect and adorn shrines for worship, all the arts found their legitimate sphere in the service of the Christian religion.
II. THE FINAL CAUSE WHY GOD HAS IMPLANTED IN US A SENSE OF THE BEAUTIFUL. In Him alone is perfection, beatitude, joy. All that is beautiful and lovely here below comes from Him. Even in our fallen human nature there remains sufficient virtue and grace to make us acknowledge and revere the true. We love the beautiful. And where can we find a place for it so appropriate as the courts of the Lord's house? It may confidently be asserted, that in the history of the world the highest manifestations of the beautiful have been evolved in the sublime adoration of God.
(A. P. Forbes, D. C. L.)Keblah towards which God's ancient people turned the face in prayer, wherever they might be. They speak of "abiding in God's tabernacle," of "dwelling in His house forever," of "dwelling in His courts," and being "satisfied with the beauty of His house, even of His holy temple." They never weary of describing the glory of Mount Zion, and the happiness, the exultation of Divine worship.
1. Avoid narrowness in your religious views. Open your heart and mind to the whole Bible, not only to a part of it. No portion of Scripture is superfluous, but everything is necessary in its place — as a link in a chain, a stage in the growth, a step on the ladder that reaches from earth to heaven.
2. Never imagine that while beauty and stateliness are desirable in secular buildings, they are superfluous in the house of God. Never dream that spirituality of worship is furthered by poverty of accessories, by absence or meagreness of ornament, by an utter lack of comeliness in the consecrated place. All outward and visible beauty is a symbol and prophecy of the Unseen and Eternal Beauty, and therefore naturally fitted to lift our hearts to that great Object of all worship. The Church may rightly be made glorious with lavish expense of art, and time, and means: if only because the masses of God's poor stand in pressing need of some such contrast with their ordinary haunts, to waken in their souls the sense of something higher, purer, nobler than the sights and sounds to which hard necessity has restricted them.
3. Every church is "holy ground," for it is a meeting place of God and man; and what is holy should be beautiful. Beauty is the natural stimulus of love. The truth that God meets us here in a special way does not contradict the truth of His Presence everywhere. The prophets and teachers of Israel knew quite well that the Spiritual is the only Real, and that spiritual worship means a worship which is heartfelt, not hollow, reasonable not magical and meaningless, — a worship in which the entire consciousness, the whole nature, concentrates itself upon God. Sursum corda — Lift up your hearts! and your churches may be perfect shrines of beauty, and your services musical as the song of angels; your worship will not therefore be less but more spiritual.
(C. J. Ball, M. A.)
Helps for the Pulpit.I. THE OBJECT OF THE CHRISTIAN'S LOVE.
1. This habitation, or house, is designed by the Great Proprietor of it for public worship.
2. It implies the manifestation of the Divine Presence.
II. THE CHRISTIAN'S LOVE TO THE HOUSE OF GOD.
1. The love of affection.
2. The love of preference.
3. Because of advantages realised by attending it.
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) 4. Because they worship with good men. 5. It is a practical love. (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) III. APPLICATION. 3. If the earthly temple is so loved, what love will the heavenly temple create! (Helps for the Pulpit.)
(2) (3) (4) (5) (6) 4. Because they worship with good men. 5. It is a practical love. (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) III. APPLICATION. 3. If the earthly temple is so loved, what love will the heavenly temple create! (Helps for the Pulpit.)
(3) (4) (5) (6) 4. Because they worship with good men. 5. It is a practical love. (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) III. APPLICATION. 3. If the earthly temple is so loved, what love will the heavenly temple create! (Helps for the Pulpit.)
4. Because they worship with good men. 5. It is a practical love. III. APPLICATION. 3. If the earthly temple is so loved, what love will the heavenly temple create! (Helps for the Pulpit.)
4. Because they worship with good men.
5. It is a practical love.
3. If the earthly temple is so loved, what love will the heavenly temple create!
(Helps for the Pulpit.)