Sermon 2462. The Known and the Unknown
A SERMON INTENDED FOR READING ON LORD'S-DAY, APRIL 26, 1896.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON THURSDAY EVENING, APRIL 8, 1886.
"For who knows what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he passes like a shadow? Who can tella man what will happen after him under the sun?" Ecclesiastes 6:12.
MAN at his very best is only a man and well might David ask, "What is man?" In part, he is but red earth, as Adam was whenhe came fresh from his Maker's hands. Solomon tells us, in the 10th verse of this chapter, "That which has been is named already,and it is known that it is man." Whoever has lived and however wise and good and great he may have been, he has only beena man. Sum him up, add all together-the beauties of his body, the skill of his mind, even the virtues of his spirit-and whatis he, even then, but a man? And man is but vapor which appears for a little while and then vanishes away! He is as thin andairy and unsubstantial as his own breath! He comes and he goes-he is here such a little while that he can scarcely be saidto be, for he does but begin to be before he closes his being so far as this world is concerned.
As man is as light as vanity, itself, Solomon urges that it is idle and vain for him to attempt to contend with God. He putsit thus in the 10th verse, "Neither may he contend with Him who is mightier than he." It is always unwise to contend withone who is mightier than yourself, but when the disparity is so great as between man and God-the creature of an hour and theself-existent Creator, the poor feeble worm called man and the almighty invincible God-you see at once what folly it is, even,to think of battling with Him. He is, indeed, foolish who would contend with his Maker! Shall the potsherd strive to breakthe rod of iron? Or shall the wax war against the fire? There is no hope for us in such contention, yet how frequently dowe-even we who are His children-begin to contend with our God! If He chastens us, if He takes away our comforts, if He permitsus to be disappointed in our aspirations, straightway we begin to enquire, "Why is this?" And I have known times when thatquestion has been carried very, very far-when some whom we have esteemed have seemed to pick a quarrel with God and they wouldnot forgive Him. Their dear one was taken away and they called God cruel. If they did not say as much, they thought it. Andthey have kept the anniversary of that bereavement, year after year, still unforgiving towards their God. That kind of rebelliousspirit creates 10 times more pain than the affliction, itself, did! Then the rod falls more heavily than it otherwise wouldhave done and the soul, dashing itself against the pricks, wounds itself against the goad far more than it was originallyintended to be wounded!
No, Beloved, we cannot contend with our Maker. Are we wiser than He? Do we understand Providence better than He does? Canwe sit in judgment upon Him? Do we dare to think of arraigning the great Judge of All at our bar? Let us only think of Himaright and we shall say, "I was dumb, I opened not my mouth, because You did it." And, by the Grace of God, we shall get evenfurther than that and be able to say with the Patriarch Job, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the nameof the Lord...Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" What we often lack is the spirit ofcomplete submission. If our childhood-I mean the childhood that comes of our regeneration and adoption into God's family-ifthat childhood does not teach us this submission, our commonsense ought to teach us. We ought to feel how absurd it is thatwe, who are but as a fly, should fight with the flame, for we can but burn ourselves by such folly! We cannot possibly carryon successful contention against One so great, so good, so wise as the infinitely glorious God!
I am going to speak to any who are in that contending state of mind and also to others who, perhaps, may get into such a stateunless they are warned of the danger to which they may be exposed. The ship that is on the stocks and that has never beenout to sea is astonished when it is told that such-and-such a vessel leaks in the day of storm! But when that ship is, itself,launched and gets out in the rough waters, it may come to wonder how the timbers resist the billows and how it is that anythingkeeps afloat at all. You who are young and inexperienced in the Christian life, and have never done business on great waters,may think yourselves competent to judge and to condemn the older ones for all their deficiencies and failures, but, perhaps,when you get into the same seas, yourselves, you may behave no better than they have done. Therefore, take warning beforehandand learn from Solomon's words a lesson concerning yourselves, that you may never set yourselves in opposition to the LordGod, or compare yourselves with Him.
I. The first subject of consideration in our text is OUR LIFE WHICH WE KNOW-"Who knows what is good for man in this life,all the days of his vain life which he passes like a shadow?"
We know something about our present life and what we know about it should humble us in the Presence of God, for, first, itis very short. Observe that Solomon, here, says nothing about the "years" of our life-he only counts it by "days." He looksat our earthly existence as of so short a duration that if he were to reckon it by years, he could scarcely mention it! Butif he only counts it by days, he may use the word, "all"-"all the days of his vain life." And, my Brothers and Sisters, weonly live by the day and scarcely as much as that! We are at least taught by our great Master to pray for daily bread, asif the nourishment was for a daily life which is always to be reckoned by the day. Yet is a day more than you and I can besure of, for who knows what even a day may bring forth?-
"The rising morning can't assure
That we shall end the day,
For death stands ready at the door
To take our lives away."
At the very best, we can only count our lives by days. I know that we are often tempted to reckon that we shall live to aripe old age, but, suppose we should he spared 70 or 80 years-what a short time the longest life is! Suppose we could liveeven as long as Methuselah did-which we cannot-yet how soon it would be all over and when we came to the end of it, we shouldsay, with old Jacob, "Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been." The fact is, the older a man grows, the shorterhis life seems to be. And it was because Jacob was so old and had seen so many days, that he called them few and evil. Childrenand youths appear to have lived a long while-men seem to have lived only a short time, older men an even shorter period-butthe oldest man reckons his days the shortest of all! The calculations about time are very singular, for length seems to turnto shortness! Well, then, since I am such an ephemeral creature, the insect of an hour, an aphid creeping on the bay leafof existence, how dare I think of contending with You, my God, who Was long before the mountains were brought out and whowill Be when mountains are gone forever?
Our life, besides being very short, is singularly uncertain-"All the days of his vain life which he passes like a shadow."We do not know that we shall even have another day of this life. While we are sitting in the pew, our life may end. We cannottell that we shall see next Sabbath-another Thursday night may never return to us. Do not let us forget this fact, for ifthe thought is unpleasant to us, it is because there is something wrong within. The child of God, when he is right with hisFather, forgets the uncertainty and remembers that all things are certain in the eternal purpose and decree of God-and thatall changes are wisely ordained and, therefore, the uncertainty causes him no distress. Yet should this Truth of God makeus live with much caution, care, tenderness, and watchfulness. If I may have to appear before my Maker before the clock strikesthe hour of midnight, let me set my house in order. Since I may soon die, and not live. Since I may be even now tremblingon the verge of the unseen world, let me be prepared for everything by making my calling and election sure through faith inChrist Jesus, my Lord and Savior!
Yet again, my Brothers and Sisters, our life is not only short and uncertain, but, while we have it, it is singularly unsubstantial.Many things which we gain for ourselves with much care are very unsatisfying. Have you ever heard the rich man confess thatit is so? I have heard it often and have marked it well. I have looked over his spacious estate. I have sat in his sumptuousmansion. I have heard from him all about his success in business, yet he has added, and added solemnly (the old man spokenot mere words, but spoke it from his heart as he said it), "But what is it all? It yields me no satisfaction now that I amabout to leave it." Have you ever heard the scholar, who has won many degrees and stood at the head of his profession, declarethat the more he knew, the less he felt that he knew? In his acquirement of knowledge there was much vexation of spirit andhe could sympathize with Solomon when he said, "much study is a weariness of the flesh." There is nothing truly substantialapart from God, the Everlasting One, who lives and abides forever! Depend upon it,
we shall, in a short time, prove the insubstantiality of our own lives! Worms will be scrambling for our flesh and if we havenot Christ as our Savior, devils will be fighting for our soul-and we, unable to help ourselves-shall have passed away fromall that we once thought real with a groan because it was so false and so deceptive. "Verily, every man at his best stateis altogether vanity."
Now, look, my Brothers and Sisters, it ill becomes us, whose lives are so uncertain and whose lives at the best are so unsubstantial,to begin to contend with Him in whose hand our breath is and whose are all our ways! It were far better for us to submit ourselvesto Him at once and to learn that in Him we live, move and have our being-and that if we live and move at all-it is all derivedlife and motion! It were well for us to also give the Lord all this poor life, be it what it may, to be used in His serviceand to be spent for His Glory. It will give us something comforting and cheering to look back upon, if we have submitted toHim and laid hold upon His way of salvation in Christ Jesus. And if, by His Grace, we have lived in Him, with Him, throughHim and to Him, it will be real life-life that is substantial-"the life that is life, indeed." The shadow, as it really is,will be a substance veiled in a shadowy form. It will have been worthwhile to have lived, for I reckon that angels envy men,after all. They have not our battlefields-they cannot have our victories. It is true that they have not our sins, but theycan never know "Free Grace and dying love" as we have known them! It is true that they have not to deplore wanderings suchas ours, but neither have they been brought back upon the great Shepherd's shoulders. Nor has there been music made for themas for sons that were dead but are alive again!
If we play our part as Christians, well, they will think of us as Englishmen of old thought of their fellow-countrymen ona hard fought battlefield-they envied those who were privileged to fight battles that should bring to them such honor-andunfallen spirits might almost envy martyrs who can suffer for Christ, even to death, and men and women who, in their particularway, can contend against iniquity and bear their witness for the Truth and holiness of God and for the precious blood of theOnly-Begotten in this sin-stricken world! May God help us to lay our poor life, such as it is, at His dear feet! It is onlya flower, but if the flower is once put into His hand, it will not fade. It is a frail vase that is apt enough to break ofits own weight, but if it is once presented to Him, He will preserve it and give it a place of honor in His palace above!If our poor life is given up to Christ, He will keep it for His own Kingdom and Glory. He will link it with His own immortalityand give to us eternal life like to His own. Can we ever think of contending with Him? No, that can never be! Rather let uscome and creep beneath the shadow of His wings. Let us be as little chicks that hide beneath the hen and He shall cover uswith His feathers-and under His wings shall we trust. His Truth shall be our shield and buckler! We shall lose our nothingnessin His eternal All and we shall become great, blessed, happy, everlasting in our God, through Christ Jesus, His dear Son!
II. Now I lead you on, in the second place, to another consideration, which is in the text-WHAT IS BEST FOR US IS NOT KNOWNTO US. It is ill for us to quarrel with God about His Providence, for Solomon wisely asks, "Who knows what is good for manin this life?" We certainly do not know, as to temporals, what is best for us in this life- neither do we know even in highermatters, in spiritual experience, "what is good for man in this life."
Suppose we ask the question, "Which is the better for a man in this life-wealth or poverty?"-what will be the answer? Wealth-theeye is dazzled with it! It brings many comforts and luxuries, yet there is a passage of Scripture as true, now, as when theMaster first uttered it, "How hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the Kingdom of God." Paul wrote to hisson, Timothy, "They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drownmen in destruction and perdition." Scripture all through represents the acquisition of wealth as involving very solemn responsibilitiesand loading the soul with burdens. I do not doubt that there are some men who could never have sinned as they have done ifthey had not been successful in acquiring wealth. They could never have plunged into a damnation so deep as that which istheirs if they had not been able to indulge their lusts without stint. It must be a dreadful thing for a man with an evilheart to feel that he can get anything that his evil heart desires. Who knows, then, that wealth is a good thing? Do any choosepoverty? There have been some men who have willingly chosen extreme poverty as a help to Divine Grace, but I gravely questionwhether it has been a wise choice. There is as much to be said concerning the evils and the disadvantages of poverty as thereis to be said on the other side. He that lacks bread, he that has children about him crying with hunger, he that shivers inthe cold blast is often tempted to envy-and to many other sins which he might not have committed if he had not been in thatstate.
It is not for you or for me to be able to balance the answer to this question, "Who knows what is good for man in this life-wealthor poverty?" There was a wise man who said, "Give me neither poverty nor riches," and he seemed to have hit the golden answer.Yet I believe that there is many a man who has been helped to Heaven by his poverty. At any rate, he has been incapable ofcommitting some sins into which he might have fallen if the means had been in his hand. He could not destroy himself so effectuallyin certain ways for lack of the power to do it. Brothers and Sisters, it may be that some of you will get to Heaven with manytalents or pounds entrusted to you. There are others of you who would not get to Heaven at all that way, so you have not thetalents or pounds committed to your charge. "Who knows what is good for man in this life-wealth or poverty?" We do not know,so we must leave the question unanswered.
Now take another question-that of health or sickness-"What is good for man in this life?" It seems, at first, that it mustbe good for a man to enjoy the best of health and the most sprightly vigor, does it not? We all wish for it and we are allowedto do so. Nobody thinks that sickness and disease can really be, in themselves, a blessing. Yet have I seen some gentle, holy,devout, matured spirits that could not have come from any garden but that which was walled around with disease, grief andwoe! I could quote many examples and I have seen full many of them. The engraver's best art has been spent upon them-the engravingtool has been very sharp and the hammer has smitten them very terribly. They had never been such marvels of the Master's Graceif it had not been for their sorrows! As for myself, personally, I confess that I owe more to the hammer, the anvil, the fireand the forge, than I do to anything else. I have learned to bless the hand that has smitten me! I dare not invite its blows,but it has never come to me without being full of benedictions. I have seen more stars by night than by day, and I have realizedmore of my Master's love and Grace in sorrow than I have ever done in joy. Yet I doubt not that there are other spirits whohave been brought nearer to God in their gladsomeness, saints who, for very gratitude to God for their overflowing delights,the mercies of this life and the health of their bodies, have been drawn and bound more closely to their God. I am not goingto decide the question-Solomon could not-so I will leave it unanswered. "Who knows what is good for man in this life-healthor sickness?"
So is it with regard to publicity or obscurity. There are some persons whose Graces are best seen in public and they ministerfor the good of others. They have to be thankful that God has placed them in a position where they are seen, for it has ledthem to watchfulness and carefulness. The vows of God have been upon them and they have been helped in their way to Heavenby the very responsibilities of their public position. But, sometimes, I have wished that I might be a violet that I mightshed my perfume in some lowly spot hidden by leaves. I would have liked, sometimes, to take my place in one of those pewsand listen to someone else proclaiming the story of redeeming love. There must be a great privilege about going in and outof your humble home unseen and unknown-one would escape the public criticism and the unkind envy of many-and the weights ofresponsibility that are enough to crush us. Yet I do not doubt that obscurity has its ills as well and that many a man wouldgladly escape from it. "Who knows what is good for man in this life?"
I used to be constantly told by people that they prayed for me that I might be kept humble. Oftentimes I have thought to myself,"Dear Souls, if you would but pray that I might be kept alive at all, and preserved from despair, I would be much more thankful,"for if God sets a man up as high as the cross of St. Paul's, he would be safer, there, than if the devil set him in an easychair. If God takes His Son and sets Him on a pinnacle of the Temple, He is safe there. And if He were to come down and hideHimself, He would not be any safer. No, He would be in greater danger than He would be where His Father placed Him! All dependsupon your being where God puts you. Any man is safe if he is where God would have him to be and if he trembles for his ownsafety and clings to the Strong for strength! But those who think that their position gives them immunity from danger arealready in peril from their fancied security! "Who knows what is good for a man in this life-publicity or obscurity?"
So I might go on with many other matters and say that it is very difficult, indeed, impossible, to judge which is better.What, then? I think that we had better be content to remain just as we are and be satisfied and thankful to be where God hasplaced us in His Providence. Who knows what is good for us? God does and that is better than for us to know!
Then let us enjoy what God has given us. Make the best of your position by enjoying every mercy that God has bestowed uponyou-not fretting because He has not given you certain other things, but rejoicing that He has given you what He has bestowed.And use whatever you have to His Glory. Instead of repining that you have not three, four, five, or 10 talents, use the onethat you have and put it out to interest for your Lord. Do not sigh for another place, as so many do-they are hoping, wishingand longing to rise in the world-and if they do not get what they hope for, they will be very grieved and greatly depressed.Rise, if you can, but if, with all your efforts, you do not rise, thank God all the same! You do not know what is best foryou-that higher place might have been a snare to you, so be thankful to be where you are and sigh not for that position whichGod has denied you.
Neither dote on the things that you have, for they will all soon pass away. We are travelers and the world is but like aninn-if our room is uncomfortable, we shall be up and away in the morning! We are soldiers on the battlefield-if the fieldis rough and stony, let us fight the battle and win the victory-then we shall not mind what the soil is on which we stand!Remember that whatever you set your heart upon is probably a bad thing for you-if you make up your mind that you must havea certain thing, you have already made an idol of it-and if the idol should really become yours, it would bring a curse withit! Whatever we sin to gain, whatever we sin to keep must be bad for us. But whatever our heavenly Father sends to us mustbe right for us to have and we may well be content to let His unerring wisdom supply what is lacking through our ignorance.
I believe that the same question might be asked concerning Christian experience-"Who knows what is good for man in this life?"It must be good to be full of high joys-to rise to the loftiest heights of holiness and blessedness-must it not? Yes, yes,but it may be good to go down into the very deeps, to know the plague of your own heart and to feel the scourging of yourFather's rod. "Who knows what is good for man in this life?" A mixed experience may be better than one uniform level eitherof height or depth. I have sometimes half envied those Brethren who are evenly the same in temperament, never going up andnever going down, but I am not sure whether it is not better to go both up and down. I have had a taste of both experiencesand if I could change to the uniform even tenor of my way, I would not dare to make the change! I feel about this matter verymuch as the old woman did when she had been long sick and one asked her, "Don't you wish to die?" She answered, "I wish theLord to do with me as He wills." "But," said the friend, "suppose the Lord put it to you whether you would live or whetheryou would die?" "Then," she replied, "I would give it back to Him and ask Him to choose for me, for I would not want to havethe responsibility of the choice." Let us try to put ourselves wholly into God's hands-spirit, soul and body-and to beg Himto do just what He wills with us since we are quite clear that we do not know how to take care of ourselves!
III. Lastly, the text mentions another form of our ignorance and it is this-WHAT SHALL BE AFTER US IS NOT KNOWN TO US. "Whocan tell a man what will happen after him under the sun?"
The question may mean, "Who can tell a man what he will yet go through in this life?" He is now well-to-do. He is prosperous,he is healthy. But who can tell him what is yet to come to him? No one! Therefore let not the rich man glory in the wealthwhich may take to itself wings and fly away. Let not the man who is honored by his fellows reckon that the applause of menis any more substantial than a vapor. Let not any man glory in what he now possesses, for who can tell what may yet come tohim-or be taken from him?
But I think that the text has its main bearing on what will happen after death. We must leave that with the Lord-it is notfor us to know what will be done when we are called away from the earth. Many are plotting and planning to settle what shallcome to pass after they are gone, yet much of their scheming is in vain. Somebody else will take that house which you havehad such trouble to build. Strangers will tramp along those passages and laugh in those rooms-and know nothing about you.Your sons, whom you have brought up with the idea that they shall succeed you, may die before you do. You may have your estatesentailed, as men try to do, and the chains of the law may seem to be riveted fast- but accident and the corrosion of timemay bring them all to nothing.
"Who can tell a man what shall be after him?" I cannot tell what shall happen when my work is done-what shall happen here,who shall come here, where these people will go, what shall happen to the College, what shall become of the Orphanage-allthese questions are proposed to me full often and friends ask, "What is to be done when you are gone?" Well, dear Friends,if you could tell me what will be done, I wish you would not, for I do not want to know! What has that to do with us? Arewe not to leave the future as we leave the present-in the hands of God? And will not all be well? The Lord did very well withoutus before we were born and He will do very well without us after we are dead! I will not say that He will not notice our departure,for He notices everything, but it will be an almost inconsiderable item in the innumerable details of His universal government!
So, with regard to our present service, let us just feel this-"It is not for me to be worried because of what happens to me,or to quarrel with God about it." God sees the end from the beginning. He takes in the whole run of things and it may be forHis Glory that some of us should work on throughout our whole life with very little success because He intends that the "work"should appear to us, but the "glory" to our children. He may mean this age to be a time of sowing and the next age to be atime of reaping! He may mean that this century may be spent in compassing the walls of the Jericho of sin and that, all ofa sudden, there will come a day which He has ordained for the tumbling down of every castle and every portion of that vastwall! It is for you and me to know that God sees further than we do and not to begin to measure His work with our ruler! Justleave it all with Him, you who are troubled either about the present or the future.
As for you who have no God with whom you can leave either the present or the future, you have cause to worry and you may welldo so, for you have no Helper. You have no God to live with and no God to die with! No God for the Day of Judgment, no Godto help you when you are driven from His Presence and from the Glory of His power. You have turned your back on Him-one dayHe will turn His back on you! You may well be afraid! You may well let care gnaw at your very hearts, for again I remind youthat you have no Helper! Oh, that you were wise, that you would seek God in Christ Jesus and be reconciled to Him! May Hisinfinite Grace bring you to this blessed condition!
But it is mainly to His children that I have been speaking. And to you who believe, I hope I need no longer say, "Let us joyin our Father's love and care, and not want to know what is before us, but be content to believe! Let us not want to judge,but be satisfied to leave all with Him." Thus, while we live, we shall praise His name, and when we die, we shall still goon praising His name forever and ever! I feel as if I could not help ending my discourse with that verse which I have oftenquoted before-
"All that remains for me
Is but to love and sing,
And wait until the angels come
To bear me to the King."
God bless you, for Jesus Christ's sake! Amen.
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK"-757, 39, 626.
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON. PSALM147.
Verse 1. Praise you the LORD: for it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely. "It isgood," that is to say, it is a thing that ought to be done, it is a right thing "to sing praises to our God." "It is good,"that is to say, it is profitable, it is beneficial to our own hearts. Prayer is refreshing, but praise is even more so, forthere may be and there often is, in prayer, the element of selfishness-but praise rises to a yet higher level. Prayer andpraise, together, make up spiritual respiration-we breathe in the air of Heaven when we pray-and we breathe it out again whenwe praise. "It is good to sing praises to our God." What a mercy it is that it is pleasant, too! There are many things thatare good that are not pleasant, and many more things that are pleasant that are not good. But here is a holy duty which isalso a heavenly pleasure! It is the bliss of Heaven to praise God. Let us anticipate that bliss by praising Him now, "forit is pleasant." And then there is a third commendation-"and praise is comely." That is to say, it is beautiful, it is a goodthing in its right place, it is according to the natural and spiritual fitness of things that God should be praised. In God'ssight, one of the most beautiful things in the world is a grateful heart-"it is pleasant; and praise is comely."
2. The LORD does build up Jerusalem. There is something for which to praise Him. When the Jews came back from captivity andfound their beautiful city all in ruins, God helped them to build it up, again, so they sang, "The Lord does build up Jerusalem."We may sing the same sacred song, for the Psalmist does not say, "The Lord has built," but, "The Lord does build up Jerusalem."He is going on to build it-the Divine Architect's plan of salvation is still being carried out! The great Master Builder isstill placing stone upon stone in the wondrous courses of His election of Grace-"The Lord does build up Jerusalem." O Lord,build up this part of the wall!
2. He gathers together the outcasts of Israel. Those that were far away, captives in Babylon, He brought back. God has a longarm which He is casting round His outcast chosen ones, for He means to gather them all to Himself. He has an elect redeemedpeople and they are scattered throughout the whole world-but even Caiaphas knew enough of the Truth of God to declare thatChrist, "should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad."
3. He heals the broken in heart. He does it still, mark you, for the verb is in the present tense-"He heals the broken inheart." These are two of God's great occupations-to gather outcasts and to heal broken hearts."
3. And binds up their wounds. Oh, what a blessed God He is, thus to interest Himself in the sorrows of mankind, to give Hisinfinite mind and heart to this wondrous work of healing the wounds of our lost humanity! You see, it is thus that the Lordbuilds up Jerusalem. The two verses are the complement of each other. "The Lord does build up Jerusa-lem"-with what? Outcasts,broken hearts and wounded spirits! Many of the stones that God puts into His great Temple are such as men would exclude. Brokenhearts and bruised spirits that look as if they never could have any strength in them, God uses in building up His Church.What a wonderful leap it is from this third verse to the next!
4. He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by their names. There is as much grandeur and glory in His compassionas in His Omniscience! To bind up wounds is as God-like a work as to count the stars. God does both, taking, perhaps, a greaterdelight in the first than in the second. There is not a star in the Church's firmament to which God has not given the light!He knows the number of His shining ones and He keeps their light burning-their names are all in the Lamb's Book of Life.
5. 6. Great is our Lord, and of great power: His understanding is infinite. The LORD lifts up the meek. That is the Lord'susual way-those that are down, He raises. But-
6. He casts the wicked down to the ground. This is what God is always doing-lifting up and overturning-putting people andthings in their right places.
7. Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp to our God. False gods have been served with discordant yellsand cries of agony, but our God is to be worshipped with songs of thanksgiving. Think not that He desires you to come beforeHim with groans and moans-He will hear them if they are sincere-but He would have you raise your hearts to something higherand better.
8. Who covers the Heaven with clouds. Little children do not think that is a matter for gratitude. They are sorry to see theclouds and the rain, but wise men know how filled with blessing are the clouds God sends. It is even so in Providence andGrace.
8. Who prepares rain for the earth, who makes grass to grow upon the mountains. For every blade of grass, we ought to thankand praise the Lord! If He is a benefactor who makes two blades of grass grow where only one grew before, what a Benefactormust He be who makes all the blades of grass grow, without whom there would be none at all! Even on the mountains, where itmay be that we have no cattle, yet there are wild creatures that must be fed, so the Lord makes the grass grow there, too!We are often selfish and we talk of things being useless if they are of no use to us. Are there no other living things, then,but men? And is God only to care for those animals which most of all rebel against Him? Let us think differently of this matterand bless the Lord for even the grass that grows on the waste places, where only the chamois or the wild gazelle will feed,for they, too, have their purpose to fulfill in God's sight.
9. He gives the beast his food, and the young ravens which cry. Unclean creatures though they are, God feeds them. We haveknown people have only one bird in a cage and yet forget to feed it. But God has myriads of birds, millions of beasts andinnumerable fishes, yet they are not starved. The commissary of God never fails! My Soul, will He not feed you? If He hearsravens, will He not hear your cry?
10. He delights not in the strength of the horse. He takes not pleasure in the legs of a man. Man boasts of his strength andhe looks at his fine horse and glories in its strength. But God has something higher and better than sinew and muscle to boastabout.
11. The LORD takes pleasure in them that fear Him. That is His joy. As a man is proud of his horse, or of the muscles whichenable him to run swiftly, so God takes delight in those that fear Him-
11. In those that hope in His mercy. These are His jewels. These are His Glory.
12-14. Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem; praise your God, O Zion. For He has strengthened the bars of your gates; He has blessedyour children within you. He makes peace in your borders. What a blessing this is, not only in a nation, but in a church!If you were ever members of a church where they seemed to quarrel punctually once every month, you would soon be sorry tobe a professor of religion at all-but to live in a Church where brotherly love rules-this is a thing for which to praise thename of the Lord. "He makes peace in your borders"-
14. And fills you with the finest of the wheat. There is generally peace where there is plenty. Dogs fight when there arefew bones. And when God's people are well fed, they do not so often quarrel with one another. If they are fed with the finestof the wheat, there will be peace in their borders.
15. 16. He sends forth His commandment upon earth: His Word runs very swiftly. He gives snow like wool. Light and fleecy,it covers the plants and protects them from the cold. The snow is a kind of garment to protect them from the frost.
16. He scatters the hoarfrost like ashes. You must often have been reminded of white ashes as you looked at the hoarfrostin the early morning.
17. He casts forth His ice like morsels. Hailstones, like little pieces of bread, broken off and scattered abroad,
17. Who can stand before His cold? In all this, the Lord is really fattening the soil and preparing food for man and beastin the coming spring and summer!
18. He sends out His word, and melts them. He has only to speak a word and the ice, the snow, the hoarfrost and every signof winter will disappear-and we shall begin to swelter in the heat of summer!
18. He causes His wind to blow That is all-
18. And the waters flow. Ice saws and axes could not set free the frozen rivers but His wind, the very breath from the mouthof God, does it at once!
19. He shows His Word to Jacob, His statues and His judgments to Israel. And we have come into the place of Jacob and Israel,even we who have believed, for Abraham is the father of Believers and we are his spiritual seed according to the promise.So we have to bless God that He has showed to us His Word, His statutes and His judgments.
20. He has not dealt so with any nation. There are no other people who know the Lord as God's people do-and remember, theyconstitute one nation. We are Englishmen, perhaps, or Americans. That is a skin-deep distinction. But if we are in Christ,we are one family, we are of that one peculiar nation which, all over the world, is distinct from every other nation!
20. And as for His judgments, they have not known them. If they have been left in the dark, let us do all we can to carryor send the light of the Gospel to them! And as we think of the great things God has done for us, let us join in a joyfulHallelujah, as the Psalm ends-
20. Praise you the LORD.