Psalm 4:1
It is not difficult to be cheerful when we have everything we desire. But when life seems to be a series of catastrophes, disappointments, and vexations, buoyancy of spirit is not so easily attained. If our lives were in peril every moment through rebellion at home and plots and snares around, few of us would be found capable, under such circumstances, of writing morning and evening hymns. Yet such were the circumstances under which David wrote this psalm and the one which precedes it. Both of them belong, in all probability, to the time of Ahithophel's conspiracy, of Absalom's rebellion, when the king was a fugitive, camping out with a few of his followers. Such reverses, moreover, were none the easier to bear, when he had the reflection that because of his own sin the sword was in his house, and was piercing his own soul Yet even thus, as he had "a heart at leisure from itself to write his song of morning praise, so does he also pen his evening prayer. We picture him thus: Any moment a fatal stroke may fall on him. His adversaries prowl around. They have rich stores of provisions and of gold, while he himself has to depend for the means of subsistence on supplies brought to his camp from without. Unscrupulous rebels were in power, while David and his host were like a band of men who are dependent on begging or on plunder. But it was precisely this combination of ills that brought out some of the finest traits in his character. Even then he can take up his pen and write, "Thou hast put gladness," etc.; "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety." Here, then, we have one of God's people, who has seen calmer days, writing in his tent and telling of a secret of peace and joy which nothing can disturb. It is a secret worth knowing. Let us ascertain what it is.

I. HERE IS AN INQUIRY PUT. "Who will show us good?" By which is meant, not so much What is good in itself? as - What will make us happy, and bring us a sense of satisfaction? Over and above our intellectual, we have emotional faculties. The emotions are to the spiritual part of us what the sensations are to the bodily part. Among the various fallacies of some wise men of this world, one of the wildest is that emotion has no place in the search after, and. in the ascertainment of, truth. It would be quite safe to reverse that, and to say that unless the emotions have their rightful play, few truths can be rightly sought or found. An equilibrium of absolute indifference concerning truth or error would be a guilty carelessness. Our craving after happiness is God's lesson to us through the emotions, that we are dependent for satisfaction on something outside us; and when such satisfaction is actually reached, it is so far the sign that the higher life is being healthfully sustained. Our nature is too complex to be satisfied with supply in any one department. Our intellectual nature craves the true. Our moral nature craves the right. Our sympathetic nature calls for love. Our conscious weakness and dependence call for strength from another. Our powers of action demand a sphere of service which shall neither corrupt nor exhaust. Our spiritual nature cries out for God, life, and immortality. Who can show us "good" that will meet all these wants? Such is the inquiry.

II. THERE ARE THOSE WHO KNOW HOW TO ANSWER THE INQUIRY. (Ver. 7, "Thou hast put gladness in my heart," etc.) The psalmist shows us:

1. The source of his joy. God - God himself. How often do the psalmists luxuriate in telling what God was to them - Rock, Shield, Sun, High Tower, Fortress, Refuge, Strength, Salvation, their Exceeding Joy! Much more is this the case now we know God in Christ. In him we have revealed to us through the Spirit nobler heights, deeper depths, larger embraces, and mightier triumphs of divinely revealed love than Old Testament saints could possibly conceive.

2. One excellent feature of this joy is the sense of security it brings with it in the most perilous surroundings (see last verse). (Let the Hebrew student closely examine this verse. He will gain thereby precious glimpses of a meaning deeper than any bare translation can give.) The psalmist discloses and suggests further:

3. The quality and degree of the joy. " More than... when their corn and their wine increaseth."

(1) The gladness is of a far higher quality. A filial son's joy in the best of fathers is vastly superior to the delight a child has in his toys. So joy in God himself for what he is, is infinitely higher than delight in what he gives.

(2) It is a gladness of greater zest. No joy in worldly things that a carnal man ever reached can approximate to the believer's joy in God. It is a joy "unspeakable, and full of glory."

(3) It is a gladness remarkable for its persistency. The worldling's joy is for the bright days of life. Joy in God is for every day, and comes out most strikingly in the darkest ones - David, Daniel; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; Peter, John, Stephen, Paul and Silas, etc. We never know all that God is to us until he takes away all our earthly props, and makes us lean with all our weight on him.

(4) The believer's joy in God surpasses the worldling's gladness in the effects of it. It not only satisfies, but sanctifies the mind.

(5) This joy never palls upon the taste. "The world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."

III. THE PSALMIST SHOWS US HOW THIS JOY IN GOD WAS ATTAINED. After his delights the worldling has many a weary chase. To ensure his, the psalmist sends up a prayer, "Lord, lift thou up," etc. This prayer had been taught him of old. It was a part of the priestly benediction (Numbers 6:22, ad fin.). Its meaning is, "Give us the sign and seal of thy favour, and it is enough." Truly in this all else is ensured. Forgiveness from God and peace with him prepare the way for the fulness of joy. Nothing is right with a sinful man till there is peace between him and God. If our view of the chronology of the Psalms be correct, Psalm 51. and 32, preceded this. If it be true that the believer attains the highest heights of joy, it is also true that he has first gone down into the deep vale of penitential sorrow. As in Christian toil, so in personal religion, "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy." Let the sinner "behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world," and then his hope, his joy, will begin. - C.







I was dumb, I opened not my mouth, because Thou didst it.
This psalm is the utterance of a man in trouble. It thrills with a strong but repressed feeling. In a thoughtful man, trouble always doubles itself. Added to the smart of the immediate affliction is the moral problem which it raises, of the reason and the justice of God's administration in the world, of the permission of evil, of the tendency and destiny of this vain show called life. Every special sorrow or disaster is a stream, setting towards this unfathomable ocean of thought, with a swift and resistless current. The psalm represents a familiar experience. So many feel, if they do not think, deeply. But there is strong repression here as well as strong feeling. The writer is on his guard against hasty speech. "I said, I will take heed," etc. But in our text we get down to a deeper reason for silence. The man is so overcome by the grandeur and the mystery of God's dealing with him that he is forced to be silent. There are some mysteries that we can — so we think — solve, but there are others concerning which we can only say, "Thou didst it" — that is all. We stand like a belated traveller before the closed gate of an Egyptian temple, rising, low-brewed and grim, under the stars, and no sound answers our knock. This, then, is the simple, stern picture of our text — a man in silence before the truth, God did it! The text assumes God to be a fact, and further assumes faith in God. God and His providence are both taken for granted. What, then? Well it is something to have got firm hold of a fact. A great deal is gained when the sorrow, however severe, or the mystery, however dark, has been traced up to God. When we can say, not something, but some one, did it, the matter is greatly simplified. We have no longer to count chances. Whatever we may think of the dispensation we know its source. God did it. A teacher sets for a boy a hard problem in algebra. The boy goes resolutely to work. The day passes, and he cannot solve it. He takes it home with him, and works at it there. He comes back next day to the teacher, and says, "I cannot do it;" and then he begins to talk passionately, to tell what methods he has tried, to hint that the teacher may have made a mistake in his statement, to complain that this or that in his algebra is not clearly defined. The teacher sees the difficulty; and, as the first step toward clearing it up, he quietly says, "Be still! Do not talk any morel I set the problem, and I know it is right." And if he says no more, and the boy goes back to his seat, he has gained something in that interview. There is power in the thought which the lad turns over in his mind, "This problem was set by somebody that knows. My teacher, whom [ have always found wise and truthful, did it." The thought that there may have been a mistake in the statement of the sum goes out of his mind, and the matter is thus far relieved, at any rate; and, under the impulse of that relief, he may attack the question again, and successfully; or, if not, he will gain by silence, by restraint. The teacher wisely silences him, not to check his inquiry, but to bring his mind into the right condition to receive explanation. And this is just how God often deals with us. "Well," it may be said, "all that may do very well for a child; but a reasoning man cannot be disposed of in that way." All I can say is, many a reasoning man has to accept that or nothing. And after all, it may be that the child's satisfaction has something rational at bottom, Reason cannot compel God to answer; and suppose it could, would man be the better? Take a simple illustration. There are certain reasons connected with your child's education or inheritance which constrain you to live for some years in an uncongenial and unpleasant place. Neither climate, scenery, nor society is what you could desire. The child asks, "We are not poor, are we, father?" — "No." — "Could we not live somewhere else?" — "Yes." — "Then, why do we stay here when there are so many pleasant places elsewhere?" You cannot tell him; he could not understand the reasons; but, for all that, the lesson that child learns through your silence, through being obliged to be content with the simple fact, father does it, is more valuable than the knowledge of the reasons. Even if he should make a shrewd guess at your reasons, that would not please you half so much as his cheerful, unquestioning acceptance of the truth that you love him, and will do what is best for him. Now, in such dependence upon God lies the very foundation of all true character, and this is why God lays so much stress on this lesson, and so often brings us face to face with His "I did it." That kind of teaching may not make philosophers — when it does, it makes them of large mould — but it makes Pauls and Luthers. But as we look at this, "Thou didst it," we find it has some treasures of knowledge for us. Faith is not ignorance. We begin to make discoveries — this one, that if God did it, then infinite wisdom did it, and infinite power did it. "Ah!" you say, "we know that but too well. The stroke is on our hearts and homes. It is written on fresh graves, and in the scar of dreary partings." All true. But has power no other aspect than this terrible one? Shall we symbolize it only by a hand hurling thunderbolts? or may we not picture a hand, strong indeed, but open, and pouring forth blessings? "All power is given unto me," says Jesus. Yet He laid His hand on blind eyes, and they saw; on the paralytic, and he leaped and ran. God did it, and therefore I know that infinite love did it. That is a piece of knowledge worth having indeed. Surely, when we reach that, we find the rock yielding water. Ah! we have to creep back for rest into the shadow of love after all. And how this truth gathers power when we go to this text, taking Christ with us! How it kindles under His touch! God did it; and I look up into that face of unspeakable love, with its thorn-marked brow, and say, "Thou didst it. He that hath seen Thee hath seen the Father. I am in sorrow; the sorrow is driven home by a pierced hand: Thou didst it. The pierced hand tells me of the loving heart behind the hand; and, if love hath done it, let me be silent and content."

(M. R. Vincent, D. D.)

I. WHAT WE OUT NOT TO DO.

1. We ought not to divert our attention from a higher object, by too anxiously inquiring into second causes; much less aggravate our distress, by vainly lamenting the circumstances of a case, of which the event sufficiently proves its entire consonance with the will of God; whilst these circumstances are to be regarded only as the sword or the staff, which served to inflict a necessary wound.

2. Neither let us be tempted too deeply to speculate upon the secret intentions of our heavenly Father in such a visitation; or too solicitously to ask whether it be an infliction in mercy or in wrath.

3. Much less should we adopt the language, or harbour a sentiment of impatience or discontent.

4. Neither ought we to despair. What though the stream be dried up, which once flowed down with blessings on our lot, the Fountain whence it was supplied still remains; and though the friend be gone, Omnipotence is left.

II. WHAT WE OUGHT TO DO.

1. Let us begin with acknowledging the imperfection of our own blind and fallible judgment, which had led us to build our hopes so high upon a passing shadow.

2. Painful, however, as we doubtless feel this severe act of the Divine sovereignty, let us next consider that as our sins have most clearly deserved all there is of chastisement in it, so our repentance alone, and deep contrition for sin, can avert its worst consequences as a national curse.

3. A duty most unquestionably it is, even in the utmost extremity, and in the absence of every human resource, still to assure ourselves that "the Lord reigneth;" and that in His supreme dominion are involved the operations and the results of infinite power, and wisdom, and goodness, and mercy. To Christians the same assurance beams with a superior brightness through the medium of that purer revelation made known to us by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and sealed to us by His blood.

(C. J. Hoare, M. A.)

I. WHAT IT IS NOT.

1. It is not a silence arising from an unfeeling disregard to affliction. We are not told to do violence to our nature.

2. It is not a sullen silence, like the sulky humour of an ill-managed child, who stubbornly refuses to speak when any of his wishes are not gratified.

3. Neither is it a silence which springs from natural con. stitution, or from good sense, as it is called, either natural or acquired. Such silence, such submission cannot be acceptable to God, inasmuch as God is not at all regarded in it.

4. Again, men may be silent under their afflictions, lest by murmurings they should bring down upon themselves yet worse. Such submission however has respect to self rather than to God.

5. It is not a despairing silence.

II. WHAT IT IS. "Because Thou didst it."

1. The Christian in his afflictions considers who God is. He sees in them the hand of one who is Almighty, the High and Mighty One, perfectly holy, and just, and good. And looking at himself, who is but sinful dust and ashes, he says, "How shall I dare to murmur against God?"

2. But while the Christian silently submits himself to God, from a deep sense of His power and majesty, his fear is mixed with love, for he views God not only as an almighty Sovereign, but as a kind parent.

3. The Christian calls to mind the gracious and valuable purposes for which God afflicts His children, and in them he finds fresh motives for silent resignation.

4. The pious sufferer quiets himself under affliction with the reflection that God will not always be chiding; weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

5. The Christian, when he is under God's afflicting hand, gives himself up entirely to His disposal; in firm confidence that he suffers according to the will of God, infinite power did it. "Ah!" you say, "we know that but too well. The stroke is on our hearts and homes. It is written on fresh graves, and in the scar of dreary partings." All true. But has power no other aspect than this terrible one? Shall we symbolize it only by a hand hurling thunderbolts? or may we not picture a band, strong indeed, but open, and pouring forth blessings? "All power is given unto me," says Jesus. Yet He laid His hand on blind eyes, and they saw; on the paralytic, and he leaped and ran. God did it, and therefore I know that infinite love did it. That is a piece of knowledge worth having indeed. Surely, when we reach that, we find the rock yielding water. Ah! we have to creep back for rest into the shadow of love after all. And how this truth gathers power when we go to this text, taking Christ with us! How it kindles under His touch! God did it; and I look up into that face of unspeakable love, with its thorn-marked brow, and say, "Thou didst it. He that hath seen Thee hath seen the Father. I am in sorrow; the sorrow is driven home by a pierced hand: Thou didst it. The pierced hand tells me of the loving heart behind the hand; and, if love hath done it, let me be silent and content."

(M. R. Vincent, D. D.)

I. WHAT WE OUGHT NOT TO DO.

1. We ought not to divert our attention from a higher object, by too anxiously inquiring into second causes; much less aggravate our distress, by vainly lamenting the circumstances of a case, of which the event sufficiently proves its entire consonance with the will of God; whilst these circumstances are to be regarded only as the sword or the staff, which served to inflict a necessary wound.

2. Neither let us be tempted too deeply to speculate upon the secret intentions of our heavenly Father in such a visitation; or too solicitously to ask whether it be an infliction in mercy or in wrath.

3. Much less should we adopt the language, or harbour a sentiment of impatience or discontent.

4. Neither ought we to despair. What though the stream be dried up, which once flowed down with blessings on our lot, the Fountain whence it was supplied still remains; and though the friend be gone, Omnipotence is left.

II. WHAT WE OUGHT TO DO.

1. Let us begin with acknowledging the imperfection of our own blind and fallible judgment, which had led us to build our hopes so high upon a passing shadow.

2. Painful, however, as we doubtless feel this severe act of the Divine sovereignty, let us next consider that as our sins have most clearly deserved all there is of chastisement in it, so our repentance alone, and deep contrition for sin, can avert its worst consequences as a national curse.

3. A duty most unquestionably it is, even in the utmost extremity, and in the absence of every human resource, still to assure ourselves that "the Lord reigneth;" and that in His supreme dominion are involved the operations and the results of infinite power, and wisdom, and goodness, and mercy. To Christians the same assurance beams with a superior brightness through the medium of that purer revelation made known to us by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and sealed to us by His blood.

(C. J. Hoare, M. A.)

I. WHAT IT IS NOT.

1. It is not a silence arising from an unfeeling disregard to affliction. We are not told to do violence to our nature.

2. It is not a sullen silence, like the sulky humour of an ill-managed child, who stubbornly refuses to speak when any of his wishes are not gratified.

3. Neither is it a silence which springs from natural constitution, or from good sense, as it is called, either natural or acquired. Such silence, such submission cannot be acceptable to God, inasmuch as God is not at all regarded in it.

4. Again, men may be silent under their afflictions, lest by murmurings they should bring down upon themselves yet worse. Such submission however has respect to self rather than to God.

5. It is not a despairing silence.

II. WHAT IT IS. "Because Thou didst it."

1. The Christian in his afflictions considers who God is. He sees in them the hand of one who is Almighty, the High and Mighty One, perfectly holy, and just, and good. And looking at himself, who is but sinful dust and ashes, he says, "How shall I dare to murmur against God?"

2. But while the Christian silently submits himself to God, from a deep sense of His power and majesty, his fear is mixed with love, for he views God not only as an almighty Sovereign, but as a kind parent.

3. The Christian calls to mind the gracious and valuable purposes for which God afflicts His children, and in them he finds fresh motives for silent resignation.

4. The pious sufferer quiets himself under affliction with the reflection that God will not always be chiding; weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

5. The Christian, when he is under God's afflicting hand, gives himself up entirely to His disposal; in firm confidence that he suffers according to the will of God, who is infinite in mercy and goodness, and who of very faithfulness causeth His people to be troubled.

6. A view of the God-man Christ Jesus suffering for the sins of the whole world affords another most powerful motive to the Christian to bear his sufferings with silence and submission.

7. It is not, however, inconsistent with that submission to express a sense of pain and distress; to desire and pray for deliverance; or to use any lawful means by which we may be delivered.

(J. T. Sangar, M. A.)

Faith, obedience and patience are the three duties incumbent upon a Christian. Faith being a submission of our understanding; obedience, of our will; and patience, of the whole man to the will of God. The consideration of such a duty as patience is ever seasonable, to those in adversity, as a cordial to support them; to those in prosperity, as an amulet to guard them. We have in the text David's submissive deportment, and the reason for it.

I. THE NATURE AND MEASURE OF SUBMISSION.

1. Negatively. It is not insensibility to suffering. Nor abstaining from prayer for relief of it; nor from endeavour to remove it.

2. Positively, it is the submission of the understanding so that it shall approve God's procedure. Of the will, our chief faculty. Of the passions and affections, commonly so turbulent, and of the tongue, so as to refrain from hard and bitter speech, and of the Spirit, so that we abstain from all rage and revenge against the instruments of our affliction (2 Samuel 16:10). We are not called upon to account enemies as friends, but we are not to take revenge.

3. All this is very difficult. Therefore, consider the worth of such submissive spirit, how excellent it is (Romans 7:87). See it in Moses and especially in Christ. It was suffering which redeemed the world. But it is difficult, because of the opposition to it which we find in ourselves, and from the mean though mistaken opinion of it which the generality of men entertain. Therefore, there is needed an early and long endeavour after such an excellent frame of mind.

II. THE REASONS AND ARGUMENTS FOR IT because of our relation to God. Think —

1. Of God's irresistible power. How useless resistance is (1 Corinthians 10:22; Psalm 135:6). Then —

2. Of God's absolute sovereignty and dominion over all things, founded, as it is, upon the greatest and most undeniable title, which is that of creation and providence (Job 9:12; Revelation 4:11).

3. His infinite and unfailing wisdom, which is never at fault (Job 4:18). Would it be better for us to have our own way? Passengers in a ship always submit to their pilot's discretion.

4. His great goodness, benignity and mercy which is "over all His works." God does not willingly afflict (Lamentations 3:38; Isaiah 28:21). Consider also —

5. God's exact and inviolable justice. He could not do us wrong.

6. And how He rewards the submissive soul. "Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord." Could we but trust God to do our business for us, to assert our cause and vindicate our innocence, we should find that He would not only answer, but outdo our hopes.

III. CONCLUSION. Learn —

1. The necessity of submission.

2. Its prudence. There are few things in the world so entirely bad but some advantage may be had of them by dexterous management. Like Isaac let us take the wood upon our shoulders, though we be designed for sacrifice, and who knows but that, as in his case, deliverance may come? (2 Corinthians 4:17). Inward if not outward relief will come to us if we submit.

3. Think also of the decency and comeliness of such submission (Daniel 5:28; Luke 21:19). Thus may we make ourselves happy in the most afflicted, abject and forlorn condition of life. Therefore, let us "take up our cross," "looking unto Jesus" as our great example and who, because He endured, "is now set down at the right hand of God."

(R. South, D. D.)

Such resignation is all too rare. The words of resignation may be on the lips, but impatience may be in the heart. To provide against, such evil we must study to be real disciples of Christ; and we must have our minds turned to those doctrines and habituated to those exercises of religion, which help us to submit amid the calamities of life. Without such aid we are overcome when calamity falls upon us. Let us consider some of these aids to resignation.

I. THE REMEMBERING THAT WHEN GOD VISITS US WITH BEREAVEMENTS, HE ONLY TAKES AWAY WHAT IS HIS OWN. Now, if we will take this view, if we not only speculatively assent to it as an abstract truth, but have it as a part of our practical creed, it will lead us to surrender any comfort whatever, and to make the surrender with patience and readiness into the hands of God, from whom we at first received it.

II. THAT GOD ACCOMPANIES OUR BEREAVEMENTS WITH CONSOLATION AND SUPPORT. How much is still left to us of good. All is not lost. Has it not often happened in the case of the afflicted that "their latter end," like that of Job, has been "much more than their beginning"? In all this there is something that is well fitted to inspire us with patience and contentment. Whatever we suffer is much less, and whatever we enjoy is much more, than we deserve. But He gives us consolation and support of a spiritual kind, far more precious and far more efficacious still. The Bible, prayer, ere.

III. In the third place, we should be resigned to the will of God when He afflicts us, because AFFLICTION IS FOR OUR GOOD. To mere worldly persons there is nothing good but that which gives them much pleasure. But to true Christians that, and that alone, is good, whatever it may be, which promotes their spiritual and immortal interests; which tends to make them wiser and better. There is still another consideration by which we ought to be influenced when involved in affliction.

IV. God who sends it is entitled to our patient acquiescence, our cheerful submission, BECAUSE AT THE VERY TIME THAT WE ARE SUFFERING UNDER HIS HAND, HE HAS IN RESERVE, AND IS PREPARING FOR US, THE HAPPINESS OF HEAVEN AND IMMORTALITY.

(A. Thompson, D. D.)

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