Sermon 3468. Consolation for Poor Petitioners
A SERMON PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY, JULY 22, 1915.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON THURSDAY EVENING, NOVEMBER 10, 1870.
"Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove: my eyes fail with looking upward. O Lord, I am oppressed;undertake for me." Isaiah 38:14.
HEZEKIAH finds fault with his prayers, but he did pray. God's children cannot at all times speak distinctly, but they allcry. There is no true child of God that is possessed of a dumb spirit. "Behold he prays" may be said of each of the Divinefamily-and place them in what circumstances you will, you might sooner call a man, living, and prevent his breathing, thancall a man, Christian, and prevent his praying! If he is living, he must breathe-if he is a Christian, he must pray! And observefurther as Hezekiah, with all the faults that he finds with his prayers, did pray, so equally certain is it that he did prevailwith those imperfect prayers! He may call those prayers chattering-I have no doubt he felt them to be so-but, after all, hehas an answer to his prayers-he had 15 years added to his life and, therefore, his chatter were marvelously successful. Fromwhich I gather that those prayers we think the worst, may turn out to be the best. And those prayers which, judged by humanjudgments, might be considered unworthy of the name of prayer, may, nevertheless, be so acceptable to the Most High that theyshall throughout life become the fountain of our praise!
I purpose this evening to speak to you, believing that many of you have passed through the same experience as Hezekiah withregard to your prayers. I shall speak to you about his estimation, his own estimation of his prayers. Then we shall turn toconsider the real value of those prayers. And then, thirdly, we shall notice what there is that may afford us plentiful consolationif we find the same fault with our petitions as Hezekiah did with his. First, then, let us look at-
I. HEZEKIAH'S ESTIMATE OF HIS PRAYERS, for our estimate of our petitions has often been the same. He compares his prayersto the chattering of a swallow. If we had time to spare, we might go into the question of the exact meaning, but I am contentwith believing that this translation will do. You know the crane makes a harsh, unmelodious, discordant sound, and when cranesare flying by night in great companies in the air, the rustic cannot see them-does not know there are any birds there andhe often hears the most extraordinary sounds which he cannot account for-and he goes home and fills the whole parish witha story of ghosts which he has seen and strange, unearthly sounds which he has heard! The crane makes a very unmusical, harsh,discordant, grating kind of noise, and the swallow makes a kind of chattering. You know the shrill, sharp shriek, piercinglike sharp needles, which the swallows make when they are going over your head towards the end of summer-not a tune, nothingvery musical, but just a sharp, shrill, piercing note. Now such, Hezekiah says, his prayers were, but, in addition, they wereas mournful as the constant cooing of the dove. Turtledoves sometimes, if they are listened to long, are enough to make aman feel wretched to hear them-their sound is the very embodiment of the utterance of sorrow! "I did mourn," he said, "likea dove," and then he declares that his prayers were long, that he grew weary, that his prayers and his eyes failed with lookingupwards for an answer.
Now let us put all these things together, and I gather from them that Hezekiah, first of all, in his sickness prayed oftenand much, but his prayers seemed to himself to be quite meaningless-as if they had no meaning to him and no meaning to God.You who have suffered from certain kinds of disorders will know how you tried to pray again and again, and again, but youcannot tell, yourself, what it is you were asking for, and when you look back in the evening at a day in which you have prayeda thousand times, perhaps, it seems to you as if you had not prayed at all! The thoughts are so tossed up and down, the mindis so incapable of its proper action, that although the prayer is genuine enough, yet to you, when you look back upon it,it seems to have no meaning in it whatever! Better to be compared to the involuntary cry of
a wounded beast or bird than to anything like a reasonable, intelligent utterance of a soul that is pleading with God! I doknow-I speak from my inmost heart-what it is, day after day, to pray no better prayers than just that-not because I wouldnot, but because I couldnot! When the head has been aching, when the bones seemed to be crushed with pain, then the soul turnsto God in her bitterness and she feels as if she did not pray at all-the utterances seem to have no meaning to herself, andshe fears they have no meaning to God. Meaningless, then, Hezekiah thought his prayers to be.
Next, he knew them to be disconnected. The cry of the crane is no continuous song. You cannot make anything of it-chatter,chatter, chatter, chatter, and that is all. In the song of some birds there is a regular cadence, the note rises or falls,and you can almost commit it to paper. In fact, bird music can be committed to paper and imitated-but with the mere chatteringof cranes and swallows there is no connection between one note and another, none whatever! And oh, how many of God's people'sprayers are to themselves and, perhaps, really are, very disconnected, indeed! They need one mercy, but before they have definitelyasked for that, their needs rush in so upon them that they ask not only for that, but another, and another, and hardly knowwhat it is that they ask for! They seem to have so much distress, so much sorrow, so much need that their troubles come introops. "Gad," they say, "a troop comes," and they know not how to order their prayer before the Lord, and set it out, itemby item, and plead for this and that, and the next, and the next mercy as they did, perhaps, in brighter days when their mindwas more at home and their thoughts more under their control. Hezekiah means his prayers were disconnected as well as meaningless.
And further, does not he mean that those were very inharmonious and discordant, just like the crane's chattering or the swallow'sscreams? Now sometimes when you hear a Brother pray who has a great gift and at the same time has an unction of Divine Grace,how delightful prayer is to the Christian ear! I think I have enjoyed the prayers of some of God's people-I can say even intellectually,more than I have some of the best effusions of poetry-and spiritually they have been intensely musical to my soul's ears!I believe that the harps of Heaven will be sweeter than the prayers of God's people on earth, but then they must be very,very sweet, indeed, for a prayer that comes to the living soul in the power of the Holy Spirit has an element of Divinityabout it! The human is there, but there is something of the Divine, also, and very, very delightful is it to the Christianto hear his Brother pray. But ah, there are times with us when our prayers seem to have no sweetness whatever. There is allthe human-and that is jarring. There is all the mortal-and that sets our teeth on edge. Every single thought we have seemsto be out of order, and every word seems to be unfitted! And all that we can do is to pour out our heart, like water as ina tumult bubbling forth without order, shape, or form, without anything beautiful in it that could attract the eyes of God!This is what Hezekiah thought of his prayer-it was disconnected and discordant.
But further, I think that he meant that his supplications were clamorous, for the crane's voice is heard afar and the shrillscream of the swallow must pierce the ears-and such were his prayers. If not sweet, yet they were cutting. If not delightfulto the ears, yet they must be heard. He would be heard of God-he cried so out of his inmost soul with such fervor, such intensity,that it was clamorous before the Throne of God. He seems to look upon it, however, not as having the orderly force that shouldbe of importunity, but rather the clamorous power which forgets order and decorum and only remembers the impulse of the sorrowwithin! Well, though we may find fault with prayer when we feel as if we clamored to God, as if we had been rough and rudebefore the august Majesty and had forgotten to take off our shoes, it may sometimes happen that where we think we have beenirreverent, we have been most reverent of all! And where we can come back from our prayers and feel, "I have expressed myselfas I ought not to have done in the bitterness and anguish of my spirit," it may be said that the Lord has most accepted thehonest outpouring of our soul! However, to Hezekiah, his prayer seemed inharmonious and clamorous.
Again, I think I see in this description an idea of its being repetitious-like the crane that goes on, chatter, chatter, chatter,chatter. Like the swallow that uses the same note. It is one of the marks of deep anguish in prayer that you use the sameword. Our Lord Himself did it when three times He prayed using the same words. Repetition in prayer is to be avoided-it doubtlesswearies those whom we expect to unite with us-but in our private supplications, when the heart feels she has a wish-one wish,but very, very few words-she may even repeat herself again and again in the very same words and tone, and yet not come underthe condemnation of using vain repetitions, like the heathen do, for it is not vain repetition that makes the soul cry outbefore the Lord with the same note when her mind is too distracted to find a variety of notes! Now, you have made your prayersoften, no doubt, just like that. You have said, "Oh, I have prayed over and
over and over again the same thing. I wish I could pray like Brother So-and-So at the Prayer Meeting, with such choice expressionsand such a wonderful variety! But I, alas, when I come before the Lord, I am so bowed down that just a few words and manytears, and that is all I can get out, and it is a broken prayer-there does not seem to be anything at all in it. When GodHimself looks upon it, only His Omniscience can spy out some little meaning, but I, alas, seem as if I had no meaning at allin what I had said before the Throne of God."
If you look at the text again, you will see that in Hezekiah's mind there was also the idea that his prayer was quite unworthyof anybody's attention, for when a crane chatters, or when a swallow makes its twittering, nobody is expected to stand stilland listen. Nobody who is going to his business would have thought of standing to enquire what the swallow means. It mattersnot what these birds mean by their cry, and so he seems to say, "My God, my God, You are governing the world! You are reigningin Heaven! You are listening to the praise of angels! You have within Your mind grand, incomprehensible designs. You are fulfillingYour marvelous decrees. What can it be to You that a poor man, a worm like myself, should lie on the bed and toss to and fro,and pour out such utter chattering as my prayers are? That You should have heard Elijah upon Carmel I can understand, forhis was mighty prayer. That You should have heard David when he cried to You in such language as he had written in the Psalms,I can understand, for these were prayers that had Divine Inspiration in them. That you should listen to our fathers and heartheir groans-that I believe, and I think I can see a reason for it. But that You should listen to me--Lord, I might as wellstand and listen to a chattering crane as expect You to stop and listen to me. Have you ever thought that about your prayers?Perhaps tonight there is some poor sinner here who thinks that of his prayers. Ah, Soul, God does listen to the chatteringof cranes! I know He does, for I have read in His Word what is tantamount to that in the text, "He hears the young ravenswhen they cry." And surely if He hears a raven's cry, if not a sparrow falls to the ground without our Father, your prayer,though it may be very indistinct and the language, itself, may be very unworthy of the Divine ear, yet it shall command anaudience and will bring down a blessing from above!
If I do not weary you in looking at this prayer, I think I am holding up a mirror for your own memory. I would note that Hezekiahmeant in the next sentence that his prayer was very dolorous and very mournful. "I mourned. I did mourn as a dove. My God!My prayer once was cheerful. I dropped a tear, but then I lifted a note of praise. I confessed my sin but then I thanked Youfor Your forgiving love. But now it is all sorrow! I harp on one string, and that string is all out of tune. I can do nothingbut sob, and sigh, and confess my broken-heartedness, my misery, my hopelessness."
And then he closes the description of his prayer by saying that he was getting weary of it He looked up in prayer till hiseyes had grown weak and failing, and he could hardly look up again. His voice was failing so that he chattered like a crane,instead of speaking like a man. His heart was failing and so, instead of hoping with the eagle's eye that looks up and seesinto the heart of God's love, he had got the dove's heart that was failing-and now he was led almost to give it up! It seemedto be of little use to pray. The heavens were as brass-no answer came from God. He waited-he had waited long and was stillwaiting-but as yet no blessing seemed to come. Do not some of us know what this lesson means? We remember it, when we wereseeking our own salvation, how we seemed to seek in vain and now, today, we are seeking some special gift from God. It maybe He has delayed to answer us and we are beginning to think He will not answer us, forgetting that that sentence, God neveris before His time, but He never is behindis most true. Thus I give you Hezekiah's estimate of his own prayer. Now, secondly,let us dwell for a minute upon-
II. THE REAL VALUE OF OUR PRAYERS IN THE SIGHT OF GOD.
I think we can spy a little of that out for ourselves. First of all, it is quite certain that Hezekiah's prayers were unaffected,for when the crane chatters, it is never hypocritical. It chatters thus because that is the way the cranes talk. And so withthe swallow-it does not try to imitate the tones of the nightingale or catch the sound of the eagle-no, it is a swallow andit makes the sound of a swallow! And so with Hezekiah. It was a strange prayer, but it was his own prayer. It might be toanybody else very wild and mystical, but to himself it was the natural effusion of his own soul-it was the truthful expositionof the state of his own heart-and that is always a mark in prayer. Oh, one loathes to hear people get up and pray-pray onstilts. I have heard such prayer. If a man is a plowman, let him pray like a plowman, and he will pray well. If a man is ascholar, let him pray like a scholar. If a man is unlettered, let him pray what he knows and not copy somebody else's prayer.It must be the soul running out in its own language! God abhors, I believe, artificialities in prayer! They are sickly tous who hear them from our fellow mortals-but what must they be to God when men trick, and toy, and adorn themselves with tinsel,gewgaws and a sort of spiritual rhetoric in the Presence of the eternal God- what must that be? I can scarcely tell. Certainlythere was nothing of that in Hezekiah's prayer. Whatever there was in it was real. It might be very strangely shaped, butit was of the right sort-it was Hezekiah's own, whatever it was-not a borrowed prayer, or anything fetched out from borrowedexperience. There was something good about it.
In the next place, it might have had many imperfections, but it certainly was intense, for though he chatters like a craneor a swallow, yet his whole heart was in it. The sound might have no charm, but the prayer had a deep sense in it and though,to himself, there was no connected meaning, yet his heart was in the little brief parentheses of meaning! The little scrapsand flashes of meaning that were there were sincere meanings and not false. And so here was another virtue in it-it was anintense prayer, a burning, fervent prayer that pierced its way even to the ears of God!
Certainly, again, as we look at it, it was a persevering prayer, for when he said his eyes failed, he was incidentally sayingthat he had looked until they failed, and that he had not left off looking, though he feared he almost would leave off looking,and he considered it would be a calamity to leave off looking up. I think there was a stern resolution in the good man's soul.He did not leave off prayer-there was this golden, this diamond element in him that he continued in prayer-that he was importunatein prayer.
And further, if we take the last sentence of the verse as a specimen of the prayer, as the condensed essence of the prayer,as I think it is, what a grand kind of praying it was, after all I wish our grand prayers were half as good as Hezekiah'schattering if this was the style of it, "I am oppressed; undertake for me." Why is that prayer so admirable? It is as fullas it needs to be, it is brief-and that is often a virtue, but it is very full. He states his case. He pleads with God. OJehovah, I am oppressed! Undertake for me! You alone can deliver me. Look at my sin and undertake to bring me out of it. Hezekiahis so reliant-he seems to feel that if God does but undertake it, it is all he needs. He needs nothing-no one-only his God."Undertake for me," and the word is, "Be Surety for me-give me a promise, enter into suretyship engagement with me." Do butsay it shall be so, and I will be content, even though I wait the fulfillment for a while. It is a reliant prayer.
And observe further, it is an acquiescent prayer. He does not put stipulations before God, but he says, "Lord, undertake forme. That is my case, only carry it through. There let it end as You will. I will give it up to You. I, a poor oppressed soul,oppressed by sickness, put my double plight of misery into Your hands and say, 'Do with me as You will, and I will be content.'"
Moreover, if I may say so, this prayer is such an undiluted prayer So many people's prayers are mixed up with dependence uponsomething else, or with secondary seeking. There are some back reckonings with God, but this is all clear and straightforward.Lord, I ask no one else for help. I would not look within for help, but to You I come. I am afraid, but You, O You undertakefor me! There is my hope, and there alone. From You comes my salvation. "Undertake for
And once again, the prayer might well be prevalent, as it was. With all the faults Hezekiah had to find with his prayers-thoughhe chattered like a crane, he won 15 years of life by his chattering! His prayers were disconnected and they were discordant,and they were all the various things I have said, but for all that, in answer to these prayers, he was delivered from thegates of the grave and he went up to the home of God with joyful songs because the Lord had heard his prayers! Oh, it is wonderfulwhat weak prayers can do-what imperfect prayers can do! What prayers that need to be prayed over again can do when they arewashed with the precious blood of Jesus and come up with a sweet perfume of Him that is a Surety for the oppressed and undertakesfor us! Oh, what prevalence there is in Heaven in the prayer that comes up from a sincere soul burdened here below!
Thus I have very briefly hinted at the value of the prayer which Hezekiah thought so little of. And now supposing you andI are in this state that our prayers seem to be a very poor sort of thing, I am sure they are very good.
And now let us turn to another line of teaching that is here, and ask-
III. WHAT IS THERE TO COMFORT US?
Why, there are several considerations which I will give you briefly. And, first, you find it is nowhere said that prayer willnot be heard unless it is perfect And it is nowhere said that prayer, when it is imperfect, will be rejected. Suppose my prayeris disconnected, did the Lord ever say that it must be connected, or else He would not hear it? Suppose my prayer is discordant,does He ever look for music in His people's cries? I dare say He finds it, for a father hears music in his ba-
by's cries, and so may God hear music in His children's cries! But it is not there-it is only in His ears that the music is-the love of God puts it there. What is my crime, if my prayer is clamorous? Did the Lord ever say He would not hear a clamorousprayer? Has not He rather told us a parable in which the woman gained by clamor from the unjust judge the vindication of herrights? What if my prayer is repetitious? Did He ever say He would not hear me because I had no variety of expression? Oh,I must not condemn what God has not condemned! What He calls clean, let me not call common. If my prayer is sincere, thenif He does not say I shall not succeed, let me hold on! And if my imperfections do not shut out my prayer according to HisWord, why should I raise up a fancied reason why they should? Remember, Brothers and Sisters, when we cannot pray in our heartsas we would, there are still some promises on record that we may still plead before God-such as this, "I will never leaveyou nor forsake you." My Lord has not said, "I will never leave you while your prayers are connected and full of harmony andpower." If He had, then my soul might have despaired, but He has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you-never." Thenlet not the imperfections of my prayer drive me away! And if I do chatter, You will not say, "I cannot bear that chattering."No, but You will still stop and listen, for You have said, I will never leave you." Oh, Your promises, then, shall comfortand sustain me!
Moreover, Brothers and Sisters, there are many instances in Scripture of prayers which are said to be prevalent with Godthatdo not appear to have any of the excellencies about them that we think there ought to be in our prayers to God. Take Moses'prayer to God at the Red Sea-I do not find that he said a word, and yet the Lord said, "Why do you cry unto Me?" I dare sayhe was much disturbed in spirit-he had not time and opportunity in such a plight as that to pour out many sentences. But Godheard it! And there was poor Hannah when she went up to the Temple. You know her prayer was such-she only moved her lips-andI am sure she must have been in a very disturbed state of mind, for Eli thought that she was drunk! He rebuked her for beingdrunk and she said, "O my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit," and God heard Hannah's prayer. David often in the Psalmsspeaks of himself as roaring. He declares he could not look up and he pictures himself as very far gone in sorrow. But theLord heard him! O Brothers and Sisters, you have cases upon cases in the Word of God and many all down the ages in the historyof the Church showing that the Lord hears His children's broken prayers! Perhaps you have sometimes experienced it. Oh, Ihave, and I bear witness-prayers that I would have flung on a dunghill-He has answered them! I know the reason-it was notbecame the prayers had anything in them, but He has answered me as if they had been prayers of the greatest of the saints.Has not it been so with you-your groans have come back to you in songs, and your tears drop back on you in showers of mercy,and your biggest bursts of agony have yet been returned to you in gracious words of promise from the Holy Spirit, the Comforter,
Now these things may help to cheer and comfort you. And I want to mention these points, and one or two others, and I havedone.
The next is this-we never need be discouraged about the brokenness of our prayers when we recollect this, "The Spirit makesintercession for us with groans that cannot be uttered." It seems, then, that when I have got right out of words and cannotpray in words-when I have such great meaning that I do not find language can help me-such awful meanings that I have cometo the deeps and, "Deep called unto deep at the noise of God's waterspout," and if I speak, I speak in language which seemsto be the language of the waves and billows, the deep, hollow, solemn, sounding foam, for I can say nothing else-then I amgetting near the Spirit's praying-my soul is getting tuned to its matchless intercession! The groans we cannot utter-He canutter-and when we scarcely know our own meaning, He can translate for us. He makes intercession for us according to the willof God!
The next sweet reflection is that our prayers have to deal with the heart of a Father. Now a little child-let us alter theillustration but in one small particular-a little child needs something and I am in the room and have no idea of what thechild wants. I am rather vexed to hear its cry and, perhaps, it disturbs me. But there is one in the room that knows exactlywhat the child means as well as if it had put it into speech, though it cannot talk a note! It is the mother who loves somuch, and her love translates the indistinct language of the cry. Now, like as a father pities his child, so the Lord pitiesthem that fear Him. "As one whom his mother comforts," so He comforts us! And when He hears us cry, His love is more intenseto us than that of the mother to her babe, and He reads our meaning. Oh, He needs not words! He is a Spirit. He needs notsounds, as though He heard with ears-He hears the Spirit's sounds and the deep groan is often the very thunder of the Spiritwhen the soul's best word may be nothing better than the Spirit's whisper! Lastly, and this, perhaps, is the most full ofcomfort, Christ pleads for us. He is at the Father's side-the Man of Love, the Crucified. We have not only the Spirit thatsearches-the Spirit that knows our mind and God's mind, and the Father's love that reads our heart so that He knows the thingswe have need of before we ask Him, but we have the Man, Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who in His measure feels afresh whatevery member bears-like ourselves, a Man and, therefore, moved with every feeling of human sympathy! He has gone through thisbrokenness of prayer, Himself! He prayed like that, Himself, when He said, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful unto death,"and He sweat, as it were, great drops of blood. His cries on the Cross, also-what are they but broken prayers, fragmentaryprayers? He knows what sore temptation means, for He has felt the same, and He knows what these griefs and inward anguishesof prayer mean, for He has passed through them all! Come, come, then, disconsolate to the Mercy Seat, though your eyes stillfail, yet keep them upwards! Though you have no comfortable answer just yet, tarry at the posts of your Master's door! Wait,for the day dawns. When the night grows darkest, the day draws near. Wait still, and cry on, still, for He hears you! To Himthere is music in a sigh and beauty in a tear! The humble suppliant cannot fail. "He that asks receives; he that seeks finds;to him that knocks, it shall be opened."
Now do you not perceive that while very much of this discourse must belong to the child of God, yet there is a sidelight init for the poor sinner whose prayer is of this sort? You hardly dare come even into this Tabernacle-and when you have gota seat, and the hymn is being sung, you feel you dare not sing-you cannot sing it. And if there is a promise being read outof the Bible, you say, "I cannot take it, it is not mine. I am not worthy." Yes, but I know what you did when nobody lookedon-you said, "God be merciful unto me a sinner." Your Father heard you! Your Father will answer you! He sets before you, tonight,the atoning Sacrifice of His dear Son. Jesus loves sinners! He died for sinners! He pleads for sinners! Trust Him and yoursins, which are many, are forgiven you, and though you chatter like a crane or a swallow, yet shall you go your way in peace,justified far rather than the man whose long prayer is a pretence, and whose speech is but the coverlet for a hypocriticalheart. God bless you, for Christ's sake. Amen.
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: PSALM 77; REVELATION 1:15-20.
Verse 1.1 cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and He gave ear unto me. The writer was in very deeptrouble. The trouble forced from him a loud and bitter cry. His heart was wrung with anguish, but the cry which was the weaknessof the flesh was, by Divine Grace, turned upward, and so became the strength of his Grace. He cried, but it was to God, notto men, as many of us do. "Unto God," he says twice over, "did I cry." But God hears when others hear not and, blessed beHis name, He answers when others cannot! There are so many instances in which God has heard the prayer of persons in deeptrouble, that the most troubled of all men ought to be encouraged to pray! Did not Jonah pray, even out of the belly of thewhale, and God delivered him? Did not Manasseh pray out of the low dungeon? Great sinner as he was, God delivered him-oh,let us believe that there is power in prayer, for God listens to the request of those that seek His face!
2. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted.He would not take the common comfort which friendly words would have yielded him-his case was so desperate that he must haveDivine Comfort, and nothing else. I will not be comforted till Jesus comfort me, and this is a very good and holy resolution.I wish that some who snatch at comfort-unhealthy comfort-too soon, would resolve upon this, "My cry shall go to God, and Godonly, and I will take no comfort till God the Holy Spirit brings it to me."
3. I remembered God, and was troubledYet it was the right thing to do to remember God-the most comfortable thing in the world!And though it failed at first, it did not fail in the long run.
3. I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. It is no new thing, then, for the best of God's people to be in the deepesttrouble. The path which you are traveling, O Mourner, is well marked with footprints!
3-5. Selah. You hold my eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak I have considered the days of old, the years ofancient times. Turned over the experience of Your people written in Your Word to see if You ever did forsake one of them.
6. I call to remembrance my song in the night. To see whether You did forsake me in days gone by-marked my past experienceof Your faithfulness.
6-9. Icommune with my own heart: andmy spirit made diligent search. Will the Lord cast off forever? And willHe be favorableno more? Is His mercy clean gone forever? Does His promise fail forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in angershut up His tender mercies?Will He be favorable no more? Very proper questions to put. They answer themselves when we putthen plainly, but while they lie festering in our spirits-misshapen things like ghosts that haunt our hearts-then they alarmus. It is well to come to plain dealings with our soul and to say, "Why are you cast down, O my Soul; why are you disquietedwithin me?"
9, 10. Selah. And I said. When I came to reckon all up, and make a righteous judgment. When I bid my fears lie still awhileand let me listen to reason, I said-
10. This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. I will remember God's faithfulnessin the past, in years when I lived at His right hand and basked in the sunlight of His love-I will snatch firebrands fromthe altars of the past to light up the fires of today!
11-13. I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember your wonders of old. I will meditate also on all Yourwork, and talk of Your doings. Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary. Or better, "Your way is in holiness." What You do isright, my God. I feared and trembled, but now I know it is so.
13, 14. Who is so great a God as our God? You are the God who does wonders: You have declared Your strength among the people.Oh, if we could all proclaim what God has done for us, we could prove it true that God has declared His strength among us!The might of His Grace has He displayed in our case.
15. You have with Your arm redeemed Your people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Saints in the olden times were very fond offalling back upon the redemption of Israel out of Egypt. It was a favorite subject of their contemplation-it yielded themgreat comfort, and very, very frequently they turned it into sacred song. Now in Heaven we shall do the same, for we shallsing the song of Moses and the Lamb. Let not the Church in modern times forget to draw consolation out of that well! Herethe Psalmist gives us a description, as I think it is, of the passage of the Red Sea-giving it as a sort of type of the wayin which God will always deliver His people to the world's end.
16-20. The waters saw You, O God, the waters saw You; they were afraid: the depths also were troubled. The clouds poured outwater: the skies sent out a sound: Your arrows also went abroad. The voice of Your thunder was in the Heaven: the lightninglighted the world: the earth trembled and shook Your way is in the sea, and Your path in the great waters, and Your footstepsare not known. You lead Your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.For one moment just look at this picture.You will be delivered and God will be glorified in your deliverance just as He was in the coming out of Egypt, but it willbe by a mysterious way, perhaps a way little guessed at by you. God's path will be in the great waters. You will see the power,but before you see it, you will little guess how it will be displayed. Only follow where He leads, for as amidst the thunderand the lightning, He led His people as calmly on as a shepherd leads his flock. So shall you, whatever happens, with Jehovahfor Your Shepherd, be led safely on till you come to the Celestial City! Let us sing the song of the Red Sea.
In the first 14 verses we have given to us part of the glowing description of the Glories of the ascended Christ, and hereit is completed.
15. And His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters. Seas lashedto tempests, cataracts leaping from their stupendous heights-such was the voice of Christ!
16. And He had in His right hand seven stars. And out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword.For His Word is a killingthing.
16. And His countenance was as the sun shines in its strength.What magnificent figures put together! We are well preparedto find that John could not long endure this majestic representation of the Lord.
17. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. He was not only brought to the posture of reverence, but he was so overawedthat he became unconscious! It is the same Person upon whose breast John had laid his head, yet now He is
represented as John had never seen Him before! He was not so at the Last Supper. He was not so upon the Cross. He was notso on the Mount of Transfiguration. He was not so even when He had risen from the dead, and, perhaps, He will not be so whenwe see Him in His Glory. This was a specially instructive representation of Christ, and it was too much even for the trainedand educated spirit of John the Divine.
17, 18. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the First and the Last: I am He that lives, andwas dead; and behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen. And I have the keys of Hell and of death. This is the great consolationof the people of God when they are brought very low-that Jesus lives, that Jesus reigns, that Jesus still comforts us anddraws near to us in all the majesty of His power!
19, 20. Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter. The mysteryof the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of theseven churches: and the seven candlesticks which you saw are the seven churches.