But as for me, it is good to draw near to God. I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may proclaim all Your works.
I. IT IS SO BY WAY OF CONTRAST WITH WHAT HE HAD BEEN DOING - wearying himself to understand the hidden ways of God, the labyrinth of his providence. No good had come of that, but only evil. Gotthold, in his 'Emblems,' tells us of the freaks of his child. The father was one day sitting in his study, and when he lifted his eyes from his book, he saw, standing upon the window ledge, his little son. He was terribly frightened, for the child stood there in utmost peril of falling to the ground and being dashed to pieces. The little lad had been anxious to know what his father was doing so many hours in the day in his study, and he had at last, by a ladder, managed, with boyish daring, to climb up, till there he stood outside the window, gazing at his father with all his eyes. "So," said the father, as he took the child into his chamber, and rebuked him for his folly - "so have I often tried to climb into the council chamber of God, to see why and wherefore he did this and that; and thus have I exposed myself to peril of falling to my own destruction."
II. BECAUSE OF WHAT IT IMPLIES.
1. That he was at peace with God. A soul unreconciled cannot draw near.
2. That he knew the way. He had learned the blessed but difficult art of drawing near; for drawing near is of the heart, not of the lips merely; and Satan will always try, and too often he succeeds, to hinder that.
3. He had found how good it was by his own experience.
III. BECAUSE THE LIGHT IS SO MUCH BETTER in the region near God. What a fog and mist he was in until he "went into the sanctuary of God," and drew near to him! We see things truly there as we cannot elsewhere.
IV. THE TEMPESTS OF THE SOUL DIE DOWN THERE. It is the region of blessed calm.
V. THE AIR IS SO INVIGORATING. God is "the Health of my countenance," "the Strength of my heart."
VI. IS NOT GOD OUR GOD, OUR OWN GOD, OUR SOUL'S HOME? Where, then, can we be better than at home? - S.C.
I. THE CONDUCT REFERRED TO.
I. EXPLAIN WHAT IS MEANT BY SUCH DEVOTIONAL SPIRIT. Note then —
It is good for me to draw near to God.
I. HE TACITLY CONDEMNS OTHER COURSES OF ACTION. From the connection of the text it is plain that he repents of certain kinds of thought to which he had given way. The text tells of his recoil from them.
1. From trying to fathom the mysteries of Providence. What have we to do with measuring its great depths? And yet we are ever trying to. Gotthold in his "Emblems" tells us of the freaks of his child. The father was one day sitting in his study, and, when he lifted his eye from his book, he saw standing upon the window ledge his little son. He was troubled and affrighted to the last degree, for the child stood there in utmost peril of failing to the ground and being dashed to pieces. The little one had been anxious to know what his father was doing so many hours in the day in his study, and he had at last, by a ladder, managed to climb up, with boyish daring, till there he stood, outside the window, gazing at his father with all his eyes. "So," said the father, as he took the child into his chamber, and rebuked him for his folly, "so have I often tried to climb into the council chamber of God, to see why and wherefore He did this and that; and thus have I exposed myself to peril of falling to my destruction." My God, it is not good for me to pry into Thy secrets with curiosity, but it is good for me to draw near unto Thee in sincerity. And —
2. We learn also it is not good for us, under any circumstances, to go to a distance from God. The preceding verse reads, "They that are far from Thee shall perish." Now, the tendency of repeated affliction is, in the carnal mind, to drive us away from God. A dog may follow you if you otter it a bone but strike it and see if it will follow you then. But it can never be good for us to go away from God.
II. OBSERVE WHAT IS PLAINLY COMMENDED — "to draw near unto God."
1. This implies that we are reconciled to Him. To attempt to draw near while He is angry would be insanity. As well might the moth draw near to the candle. We must first be accepted in Christ.
2. To draw near the soul must realize that God is near to it, and must have a clear sense of who and what God is.
3. It is prayer, but it is more than prayer. There may be no words, but it is the laying open of the chamber of your soul that the Lord may enter and inspect the whole; it is the complete yielding up of yourself to God to be dealt with as He pleases.
4. It may assume the form of praise. As with David when he satin the Lord's presence, wondering "Whence is this to me? What am I and my father's house, that Thou hast brought me hitherto?"
5. It is looking at the matter in the Divine light. If we judge God from our standpoint we shall misjudge; but see how that which troubles you looks in the light of God. Bereavement, poverty, when seen as God's way of saving your soul, look very different then.
6. It is the being pleased with anything and everything that pleases God. We are often willing to give up our own way to please those we love; should we not be so in order to please God?
III. THE GROUNDS FOR THE UNQUALIFIED COMMENDATION OF THIS DRAWING NEAR TO GOD.
1. It is good in itself. How can it be otherwise? The courtier delights to bask in the presence of his sovereign.
2. It is good if we consider our relations to God. Are we not His children? But is it not a good thing for the child to come near to its parents?
3. And because of our pitiable condition and character. We are the weakest of the weak.
4. It removes many evils to which you are constantly exposed. Man of business, absorbed in your work, day by day, what can so keep you from worldliness and fret and anxiety, as drawing near to God?
5. And there are many good things which it will confer. There is no blessing which prayer cannot obtain, which close approaches to God will not ensure. If then it be so good, let us do it at once. You who have been living afar off; you who are happy; and especially you who are penitent sinners.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. Its means — prayer, etc.
2. Its refuge — God.
3. Its exercises.
II. ITS IMPORTANCE AND ADVANTAGES.
1. Such spirit furthers holiness.
2. Helps the understanding of Divine truth.
3. Becomes a habit full of help to the soul. Is —
4. One of the strongest safeguards against temptation.
5. Cultivates all the Christian graces.
6. Fixes his heart.
7. Is humble, tender, childlike.
8. Gives increase in holiness, which but for it would yield no help (Psalm 104.).
9. Hangs round the very essentials of religion — Christ, God, the promises, etc.
(I. S. Spencer, D. D.)
1. It implies that there has been separation.
2. It is the religion of the heart.
3. It demands enlightenment of mind, and —
4. The realization of God's presence.
II. THE BENEFIT OF THIS DRAWING NEAR TO GOD. "It is good for," etc. This must depend upon the character of the God to whom we draw near. If He be only my judge, how could I say, "It is good," etc. But He is our Father, and hence it cannot but be good to draw near to Him. Now, the blessings of this are —
1. Deliverance from care and fear. See David; the three Hebrew youths; Paul and Silas, etc.
2. It is the only real preservative from sin.
3. It is the assurance to us of safety new and for ever.
4. It is a very foretaste of heaven. Remember it is not a mere isolated act, but our habit. How terrible to come to a death-bed without ever having drawn near to God.
(Montagu Villiers, M. A.)
II. THE ADVANTAGES OF THIS EXALTED EXERCISE. For David says, "It is good to draw near to God." And why so? Because God has commanded it; and this circumstance alone ought sufficiently to convince us of its value and necessity. "It is good," because, apart from the authority of that command, it is reasonable. "There is no truth more obvious, and eternal." And there is yet another great advantage; it tends to help us to cherish the calmness of mind, so essential to our advancement, and our spiritual prosperity and peace. "It is," further, "good," as instrumental in obtaining all spiritual blessings. The truth of the text is exemplified in all the events of life; but in the awful hour of death you shall find, with additional energy of conviction, that "it is good for you to draw near to God." "He will be the strength of your heart, and your portion for ever."
I. As A TOUCHSTONE. Try your prayers by it. Is there any drawing near to God in them? No matter how beautiful, venerable, scriptural the form, if the petitions be never presented. Suppose I should desire a favour of some friend. I shut myself up alone, and I commence delivering an oration, pleading earnestly for the boon I need. I repeat this at night, and so on month after month. At last I meet my friend, and I tell him that I have been asking a favour of him, and that he has never heard my prayer. "Nay," saith he, "I have never seen you; you never spoke to me." "Ah, but you should have heard what I said; if you had but heard, it surely would have moved your heart." "Ah," saith he, "but then you did not address it to me. You wrote a letter, you tell me, but did you post the letter?" "No, no," you say; "I kept the letter after I had written it; I never sent it to you." Now, mark, it is thus with many prayers. There has been no drawing near to God. This drawing near is at first with holy fear, then with holy reverence, then with joy as a child to a father. Next —
II. On the text AS A WHETSTONE. Pray, for prayer explains mysteries; brings deliverances; obtains promises. If thou hast a burden on thy back, remember prayer, for thou shalt carry it well if thou canst pray. Once on a time Christian had to carry it. He crept along on his hands and knees. There appeared to him a fair and comely damsel, holding in her hands a wand, and she touched the burden. It was there, it was not removed; but, strange to say, the burden lost its weight. That which had crushed him to the earth had become now so light that he could leap and carry it. And prayer ensures success in our work for God. Two labourers in God's harvest met each other once upon a time, and they sat down to compare notes. One was sorrowful, and complained that though he diligently sowed, no harvest came. The other said, "I steep my seed in prayer, and I have much success."
III. AS A TOMBSTONE. For the prayerless soul is a Christless soul.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)Psalm 139:7). He is present always in power and providence in all places, but graciously present with some by His Spirit, supporting, comforting, strengthening the heart of a good man. As the soul is said to be in several parts by several faculties, so God present He is to all, but in a diverse manner. Now, we are said to be near to God in divers degrees.
1. When our understanding is enlightened; and so the young man speaking discreetly in things concerning God, is said not to be far from the kingdom of God (Mark 12:34).
2. In minding; when God is present to our minds, so as the soul is said to be present to that which it mindeth; contrarily it is said of the wicked, that "God is not in all their thoughts" (Psalm 10:4).
3. When the will upon the discovery of the understanding comes to choose the better part, and is drawn from that choice to cleave to Him, as it was said of Jonathan's heart, "it was knit to David" (1 Samuel 18:1).
4. When our whole affections are carried to God, loving Him as the chief good. Love is the first-born affection. That breeds desire of communion with God. Thence comes joy in Him, so as the soul pants after God, "as the hart after the water-springs" (Psalm 42:1).
5. When the soul is touched with the Spirit of God working faith, stirring up dependence, confidence, and trust on God. Hence ariseth sweet communion. The soul is never at rest till it rests on Him. Then it is afraid to break with Him or to displease Him. But it groweth zealous and resolute, and hot in love, stiff in good cases; resolute against his enemies. And yet this is not all, for God will have also the outward man, so as the whole man must present itself before God in word, in sacraments; speak of Him and to Him with reverence, and yet with strength of affection mounting up in prayer, as in a fiery chariot; hear Him speak to us; consulting with His oracles; fetching comforts against distresses, directions against maladies.
6. When we praise Him; for this is the work of the souls departed, and of the angels in heaven, that are continually near unto Him. And thus much for the opening of the words. The prophet here saith, "It is good for me." How came he to know this? Why, he had found it by experience, and by it he was thoroughly convinced of it.
( Sibbes, Richard.)
Homilist.Who does not wish for good? But too many fail to understand what real good is, and choose that which is evil by mistake.
I. THE ACTION — "drawing near." We may do so by prayer, by study, by preparation. But we must do so chiefly by being conformed to the likeness of the Holy Spirit and by being united through Jesus.
II. THE REWARD. It is good — good in every way: good for our happiness; good for our holiness; good for our eternal interests; good for our usefulness; good for our Master's glory.
(Homilist.)I. WHAT IT IS TO DRAW NEAR TO GOD. It is to have clear and realizing views of His character, and especially as that character is made known in and by Christ — to exercise towards Him suitable acts of faith, dependence, love, gratitude and worship.
II. WHY IT IS GOOD THUS TO DRAW NIGH TO GOD.
1. Because it is then the soul realizes in an especial manner God's love, and finds its own love powerfully called into exercise.
2. Because it has a peculiarly sanctifying influence upon the mind.
3. Because it is a means of strengthening the soul to run the race that is set before it, and to persevere without wavering in the ways of the Lord.
(R. Oakman, B. A.)I. WHAT IS INCLUDED.
1. A Scriptural knowledge of God.
2. Faith in God.
3. An explicit apprehension of the only medium of drawing nigh to God and of access, whether it be by prayer, meditation, or communion with Him.
4. Humble, yet confident dependence on the aids of the Divine grace.
II. THE ADVANTAGES.
1. It tends to the intellectual elevation of the soul.
2. It is essentially adapted to man's spiritual improvement.
3. It is the source of man's highest blessedness.
4. It is good as connected with our absolute safety.
5. It is an essential preparation for the glory of heaven.
(J. Burns, D. D.)
I. THEY ARE ADMIRABLY CALCULATED TO PROMOTE YOUR IMPROVEMENT IN VIRTUE. The duties of devotion, leading to the contemplation of infinite excellence, and improving the best affections of the heart, plant in our breasts the seeds of virtue. The exercises in which these duties engage us are favourable also to its growth; for we come into the presence of God, not merely to adore the perfection of His nature, and to celebrate the goodness to which we owe all our bliss — we come to lay open before Him the secrets of our souls — to bewail the transgressions by which we have offended Him — and to form our resolutions of future obedience. These exercises lead to a serious review, and produce a knowledge of our own characters extremely favourable to improvement.
II. THE INFLUENCE OF DEVOTION ON THE HAPPINESS OF LIFE.
1. Devotion is, itself, a source of the sublimest enjoyment. The human mind delights in exercise; and the duties of piety are the noblest exercise in which its powers can be employed.
2. Devotion exalts and purifies every earthly pleasure. It adds to the enjoyment of our present comforts the delightful emotion of gratitude to our Maker.
3. But adversity is the scene in which devotion triumphs; for, however in our prosperity we may forget our Maker, affliction reminds us of our dependence on Him.
(W. Moodie, D. D.)I. HE IS THE AUTHOR OF OUR SALVATION, AND THE FOUNTAIN FROM WHICH WE DRAW OUR SPIRITUAL SUPPLY. The waters of a stream become purer and better as we approach the fountain head.
II. Drawing near to God ENABLES US THE BETTER TO KNOW GOD. To know our fellow-men we must draw near to them. We may know something of God from tradition — from nature — from a cold and critical study of the Bible; but to know Him more perfectly we must draw near to Him, and thus know Him in our own Christian experiences.
III. IT INVOLVES A DRAWING AWAY FROM THE WORLD. Our arms are too short for us to walk hand in hand with God and the world. The great, clutchy arms of the world are about us, and the loving arms of God are extended towards us, inviting us to come nearer to Him.
IV. IT PUTS US IN OUR PROPER ATTITUDE TOWARD THE WORLD.
1. It enables the world to put a proper estimate on us. When we are far away from God, the world is in doubt whether or not to count on us.
2. It enables us to form a proper estimate of the world. We owe the world a great deal, and we never know how much until we draw near to God.
3. This is the secret of success in the Christian life. Are we to accomplish anything together for the Master? This will depend upon the distance between us and God.
(John Hall, D. D.)I. BY THE PRACTICE OF HOLINESS AND VIRTUE THROUGHOUT THE GENERAL TENOR OF OUR LIFE. He who lives in the exercise of good affections, and in the regular discharge of the offices of virtue and piety, maintains, as far as his infirmity allows, conformity with the nature of that perfect Being, whose benevolence, whose purity and rectitude, are con. spicuous, both in His works and His ways.
II. BY ACTS OF IMMEDIATE DEVOTION. There are two ways by which these contribute to bring us near to God.
1. The first is, by their strengthening in the soul that power of vital godliness and virtue in which consists our chief resemblance to God: for it is never to be forgotten, that all our devotional exercises are subservient to this great end. Herein consist their whole virtue and efficacy, that they purify and improve the soul, raise it above low passions, and thereby promote the elevation of the human nature towards the Divine.
2. When our acts of devotion are of this nature, they form tim other sense in which the words of the text are to be understood. We therein draw near to God, as we enter into the most immediate intercourse with Him, which the nature of our state admits; approaching Him through a great Mediator and Intercessor; sending up those prayers to which we are encouraged to believe that the Almighty is lending a gracious ear; resigning ourselves to His conduct, and offering up our souls to Him; exercising, in short, all those acts of faith, love and trust which become dependent creatures towards their Sovereign and Father.
(Hugh Blair, D. D.)I. IT WILL ESTABLISH YOUR CONFIDENCE IN GODLINESS AS A REALITY. Nearness to God is nearness to all that is good; for "with Him is the fountain of life." Nearness to God is nearness to the object to which all religious institutions are designed to bring you: it is this that explains their meaning, and in this they gain their end. Nearness to God is nearness to religious truth, which is the animating soul of all these institutions; nearness to that truth, not in intellectual perception merely, but in an experimental, sense of its sweetness and efficacy.
II. IT WILL RECTIFY YOUR ESTIMATE OF TERRESTRIAL THINGS. It is in the mount of communion with God that you are drawn away from the sordid and the grovelling, and made to soar to the spiritual and the heavenly. There your range of view is exceedingly widened; your souls are elevated, enlarged, and filled; things unseen and eternal are realized in their transcendent greatness and importance, and things seen and temporal sink into insignificance; the sublime of heaven expands before you, and reveals earth in its littleness, and you say (Psalm 17:14, 15).
III. IT WILL FORTIFY YOUR MINDS IN THE HOUR OF TEMPTATION. What is the design of every temptation? To seduce from God. In nearness to Him, therefore, you are keeping your ground; you are resisting and overcoming. You are verifying what is said of the child of God (1 John 5:18).
IV. IT WILL QUICKEN YOUR SPIRITUAL DESIRES. This is a thing of great importance. Just as your spiritual desires are, so is your spiritual health: when they are languid, it is infirm; when they are lively, it is vigorous. Again, just as your spiritual desires are, so is your affection to the things of earth: when they are keen, it is dull; when they are weak, it is strong. Moreover, just as your spiritual desires are, so is your spiritual prosperity as a whole; so is your growth in grace, and so is your spiritual enjoyment. It is of the nature of grace in the heart, that the more it enjoys, it craves the more; and the more it has of the best of earth, it longs the more for the bliss of heaven.
V. IT WILL AUGMENT YOUR CHRISTIAN USEFULNESS. The fit agent for rousing con. sciences, and moving hearts, and winning souls, is the man that comes forth from the presence-chamber of the King, with the atmosphere of "the Holiest" about him, and his own face shining with the lustre of the glory of God upon it. To conclude: see from this subject —
1. One thing about godliness which we should keep prominently before our minds. The good that is in it, and that flows from it.
2. One reason why we so much underrate the future world. It is because we so much overrate the present.
3. Who the safest and happiest man among us is. The man who is nearest to his God.
4. The mistake of those who make communion with God to consist chiefly in pleasing feeling. They will have the way to heaven to be heaven itself.
5. What to look for after those days of high privilege we have been seeing. The full harvest of those blessed fruits or effects of "drawing near to God," of some of which we have now been speaking, is yet to be reaped. Let us take good heed to ourselves that we reap this harvest in all its fulness and preciousness.
(D. Young, D. D.)I. NEARNESS TO GOD IS THE ONE GOOD. Union with God is life, in all senses of the word, according as the creature is capable of union with Him. Why; there is no life in a plant except God's power is vitalizing it. "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow" — because God makes them grow. There is no bodily life in a man unless He continually breathes into the nostrils the breath of life. If you stop the flow of the fountain then all the pools are dry. There is no life intellectual in a man unless by the "inspiration of the Almighty " in union with God, from whom all just "thoughts do proceed." And high above all these forms of life, the only real life of a spirit is the life that it draws from its union with God Himself, whereby He pours Himself into it, and in the deepest sense of the words it is true — "Because I live ye shall live also." I need scarcely go on pointing out other respects of this supreme — or more truly, this solitary — good. For instance, nothing is really good to me unless I have it within me, so as that it never can be wrenched away from me. The blessings that we cannot incorporate with the very substance of our being are only partial blessings after all; and all these things round us that do minister to our necessities, tastes, affections, and sometimes to our weaknesses, these good things fail just in this, that they stand outside us, and there is no real union between us and them. So changes come, and we have to unclasp hands, and the footsteps that used to be planted by the side of ours cease, and our track across the sands is lonely; and losses come, and death comes, and all the glory and the good that were only externally possessed by us we leave behind us. "It is good for me," amidst the morasses and quicksands and bogs of life's uncertain and shifting ill and good, to set my feet upon the rock, and to say, "Here I stand, and my footing will never give way." Do you, brother, possess a changeless, imperishable, inwrought "good like that? You may if you like. But remember, too, that in regard to this Christian good, it is not only the possession of it, but the aspiration after it, that is blessed. "It is good to draw near;" and the seeking after God is as far above the possession of all other good as the heaven is above the earth.
II. THE WAY TO NEARNESS TO GOD IS TWOFOLD. On the one hand the true path is Jesus Christ, on the other hand the means by which we walk upon that path is our faith. The apostle puts it all in a nutshell when he says his prayer is that "Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith," and then, by a linked chain, leads up to the final issues of that faith in that indwelling Christ — "that ye may be filled with all the fulness of God." So to draw near and to possess that good, that only good which is God, all that is needed is — and it is needed — that we should turn with the surrender of our hearts, with the submission of our wills, with the outgoing of our affections, and with the conformity of our practical life, to Jesus. Seeing Him, we see the Father, and having Him near us, we feel the touch of the Divine hand, and being joined to the Lord, we are separated from the vanities of life, and united to the supreme good.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
(Life of Alleine.).
O God, why hast Thou cast us off for ever? why doth Thine anger smoke against the sheep of Thy pasture
Homilist.I. THE WAIL (vers. 1-17).
1. Some communities of men are far more favoured of Heaven than others. The Jews were (vers. 1, 2). In this diversity of endowment —(1) There is no just reason for complaining of God. As the Sovereign Author of all life, He has an undoubted right to determine as to whether He should give life to any or not; what kind of life it should be, and to how many; and what kind or measure of power He should give to each.(2) There is no injury done to any. The man or community least favoured has no right to complain, for he is only responsible for what he has. Obligation is bounded by capacity.
2. The most favoured communities are not exempted from terrible calamities (vers. 7-9).
3. These terrible calamities are often inflicted by wicked men.
4. The wicked men who inflict these calamities are ever under the control of God.
(1) (2) (3) II. THE PRAYER (vers. 18-23). 1. The enemies of God are the enemies both of themselves and of their country (ver. 18). A bad man cannot be a good citizen, but must be more or less a curse to his country. An ungodly man can never be a true patriot. 2. The interposition of God is necessary to deliver a country from the pernicious influence of wicked men (ver. 22). (1) (2) (3) (i.) (ii.) (Homilist.)
(2) (3) II. THE PRAYER (vers. 18-23). 1. The enemies of God are the enemies both of themselves and of their country (ver. 18). A bad man cannot be a good citizen, but must be more or less a curse to his country. An ungodly man can never be a true patriot. 2. The interposition of God is necessary to deliver a country from the pernicious influence of wicked men (ver. 22). (1) (2) (3) (i.) (ii.) (Homilist.)
(3) II. THE PRAYER (vers. 18-23). 1. The enemies of God are the enemies both of themselves and of their country (ver. 18). A bad man cannot be a good citizen, but must be more or less a curse to his country. An ungodly man can never be a true patriot. 2. The interposition of God is necessary to deliver a country from the pernicious influence of wicked men (ver. 22). (1) (2) (3) (i.) (ii.) (Homilist.)
II. THE PRAYER (vers. 18-23).