Sermon 3226. Figs and Olives
A SERMON PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1, 1910.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON THURSDAY EVENING, SEPTEMBER 11, 1879.
"Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olives?" James 3:12.
THERE is only one answer to the question, of course, the fig tree can do nothing of the kind. It would be quite contrary toits nature and, therefore, the Apostle argues that Christians ought to act according to their nature. If we are, indeed, thechildren of God, we should act as His children and always act as His children. We are not consistent if at one time we speakas heirs of Heaven should speak and at another time speak as the heirs of wrath speak! James truly tells us that a fountaincannot, at the same time pour forth sweet water and bitter, salt water and fresh and he, therefore, rightly argues that fromthe same mouth there must not proceed blessing and cursing-there must be consistency of conduct in those who are the Lord's.
I am going, in the first place, to take the question of our text out of its literal context. And in the second place to comecloser to it. And, perhaps, in the third place to come still closer!
I. So, first, "can the fig tree, my Brothers and Sisters, bear olives?" No. And IT IS VERY UNDESIRABLE THAT IT SHOULD! Thereis no need for it to do so, and there would be no gain if it should do so! I am, of course, taking the question altogetherapart from its context. A fig tree is better employed in bearing figs than it would be in bearing olives. The olive tree ismeant to bear olives and the fig tree to bear figs. And it would not be any advantage if it were to leave off bearing figsand begin bearing olives, or if it alternately bore figs and olives.
Now, beloved Friends, all of us that are as trees of the Lord's right-hand planting are bringing forth fruit to His praiseand glory. If we are carrying out His great purpose concerning us, we are producing the peaceable fruits of righteousness,the fruit of the Spirit, fruit unto holiness-but this fruit does not always take the same shape in every one of us. We cannotall do the same work! And even when our work is similar, we have various ways of doing it. I cannot do your work, my Brotheror Sister, and you cannot do mine-and the two of us together cannot do a third person's work! There is a certain tree thatproduces a particular kind of fruit and a certain plant on which a special sort of seed is found, but no tree produces allkinds of fruit and no plant bears all sorts of seeds. So it is in the Church of God-all true Believers are members of themystical body of Christ, but all the members have not the same office. It would be very foolish if any one member of the bodywere to attempt to perform the work of all the organs of the body or, indeed, of any beside its own. The best thing is forthe eye to see and let the ear do the hearing, for the ear to hear and let the mouth do the speaking, for the feet to carrythe body wherever the brain directs, and for the hands to perform their own special handicraft and not to usurp the officeof the organs of locomotion!
But why is it that the fig tree cannot bear olives and that one Christian cannot do all kinds of work? I answer, first, becausethe variety is, itself, charming. If anybody had the power to destroy all the fruit trees in the world and then to make atree that would bear all the fruits at once-what a pity it would be! It is much better to have three trees to bear figs, olivesand grapes than to have one tree bearing figs on one branch, olives on another and grapes on a third. It might seem a finething to have Christians who could do everything-men who could preach and pray and sing, who could be entrusted with greatwealth and great talents, who could lead the Church and who could, at the same time, control the
world, but that is not God's plan for any of His children! There is a beautiful variety in the Church of God-one exercisesthis gift and another exercises that. One is entrusted with one form of Grace and another is entrusted with equal Grace butin quite a different form. It would be no improvement if all flowers were of one color, or if all precious stones were ofequal brilliance or if all stars gave exactly the same amount of light. Variety is a great part of beauty and God delightsto have it so.
We have here, in the next place, a display of Divine Sovereignty . It is God's will that makes yon bird that looks the sunin the face into an eagle! And that other whom sits moodily on the ivy-mantled tower into an owl! It is He who makes one ofHis creatures into an archangel and another into an aphid crawling on a rose leaf. None may ask Him why He acts thus, forHe has the right to do as He pleases and, as Elihu said to Job, "He gives no account of any of His matters." Or, as Paul putit to the Romans, "Has not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another untodishonor?" It is quite certain that there are great differences among men. In the very size and shape of our bodies and inthe natural conformation of our minds, we are not all alike. Let us say what we may, there are differences of capacity whichare with us from our birth, even as God intended that there should be. He is in this matter, as in everything else, both Lordand King-so what folly and sin it is for us to quarrel with Him about our condition, or to attempt to arraign Him before ourjudgment seat! If God makes some other Brother to be like the fruitful tree that bears olives, shall I be jealous of him ifmy fruit is of another kind? Shall I not rather be thankful to resemble the tree that bears figs? And if we two see anotherBrother whose fruit is like the grapes of Eshcol, shall we envy him because we cannot bring forth such welcome clusters? Ohno! But let us all three bless the Lord for the sweetness of the figs, the fatness of the olives and the lusciousness of thegrapes that He enables us severally to produce to His praise and glory!
Further, these diversities of gifts should excite in us humility. What if the olive tree does bear its rich purple berries?It cannot bear sweet figs-and sweet as the figs are, they cannot supply the oil which gives a relish to the peasants' bread,feeds the lamp which lights his cottage in the evening hours and furnishes the medicine which heals him when he is sick orwounded. When the Lord entrusts you with talents, my Brother, you are naturally inclined to be proud. But when you hear ofanother whom the Lord has honored far more, do not quarrel either with the Lord or with your Brother, but rejoice that thereis someone whose Master thinks he may be trusted to a very high degree! And remember that the responsibilities of your ownposition are quite sufficient for you. I am often amazed at the stupidity of certain Christians. They will not do what theycando-and they want to do what they cannotdo! They are not satisfied with walking, so they take up David's cry, "Oh that Ihad wings like a dove!" The Lord knew that they would not make a proper use of wings so He did not give them any! No doubtthey think, if they had wings, they would fly away and be at rest, but I question whether they would be able to rest if theyflew away from their right place and the work God has committed to their charge! Many a man is a first-rate Sunday schoolteacher, but that does not satisfy his ambition-he must be a preacher! When he gets into the pulpit, the only part of hisdiscourse that is appreciated by his hearers is the end of it- yet he says that he must preach! Many a good worker has beenspoiled through imbibing the notion that he must do something for which God has not fitted him. There is a humbling truththat we cannot do some things which others can do well, just as the fig tree cannot bear olives though the olive tree growingclose beside it is laden with the precious oily berries!
This fact ought also to promote in us brotherly admiration. It is one of the most beautiful exhibitions of a Christian spiritwhen a Christian man admires the gifts and graces of others more than he admires his own! When, instead of thinking of anythingin which he excels others, he delights in those things in which they excel him. We ought to emulate the spirit of that nobleRoman who, when he was beaten at an election, said he was glad that his country had so many better men than himself. It isnot always easy to feel, "I am happy in knowing of a Brother who is so much more brilliant than I am, for the world sadlyneeds far more light than I can give." It is not always easy to play the least important instrument in the band and to rejoicethat somebody else can beat the big drum, or blow the silver cornet, yet that ought to be our feeling. You remember how prettilyBunyan speaks of Christiana and Mercy admiring each other after they had been in the bath-"They could not see that glory,each one on herself, which they could see in each other. Now, therefore, they began to esteem each other better than themselves.'For you are fairer than I am, said one. And you are more comely than I am,' said another." So should Christians see and admirethe work of the Spirit in other Christians and should bless God
that there are such gracious men and women in the world! While those who are thus admired should, in their turn, see greaterexcellence in others than they see in themselves.
And once more, this variety of gifts and graces helps to foster fellowship. I often feel, when I am conversing with some ofthe poorest and feeblest members of this Church, that I am greatly profited by what they say to me. They usually speak verykindly concerning the comfort they receive from my preaching and the advice I am able to give them when they come to see me.But I am certain that I derive benefit from them! It is impossible for two Christian men or women who are in a right stateof heart, to converse with one another about the things of God without both of them being thereby spiritually enriched! Asdifferent countries have different products, and one nation sends its produce to supply the needs of another nation and thus,by mutual exchange, commerce is created and each nation's wealth is increased, so is it in spiritual things. You with yourolives and this Brother with his figs, and that other Brother with his clusters of grapes will interchange your various fruitsand all of you will benefit by the transaction! It is a great blessing for a bold and confident Believer to have a talk witha trembling, desponding Christian-and the poor timid soul will be strengthened by coming into contact with the more fullyestablished saint. The man who has a very sweet disposition is apt to develop a sugariness which is most nauseating, so itwill do him good to meet with a Christian who is very straightforward and outspoken-while that Brother-by associating withthe more gentle spirit, may be kept from becoming too rough and coarse. I need not multiply instances of this helpful fellowshipbeyond just reminding you of how often, in God's mercy, a Christian husband and wife are the counterpart and complement ofone another, so that what is lacking in one of them is supplied by the other and vice versa-and thus they both become thebetter, the holier, the happier and the more useful in the service of their Lord!
II. Now, in the second place I am going to take the text more nearly in the way in which it was used by the Apostle. "Canthe fig tree, my brethren, bear olives?" No. IT WOULD BE ALTOGETHER CONTRARY TO ITS NATURE.
It would be a monstrosity, a thing to be wondered at and stared at as unnatural and absurd if a fig tree started bearing olives!And it is just as unnatural for a Christian to live in sin. Can he so live as to bear the fruits of iniquity instead of thefruits of righteousness? God forbid that it should be so! If the fig tree should ever bring forth olives, we might have goodreason to question whether it was a fig tree, for a tree is known by its fruits. So, when one who professes to be a Christianlives as worldings live, there is grave reason to fear that he is a worldling, notwithstanding his profession! If we are toknow him by his fruits, which is our Lord's Infallible test, how can we imagine that he is a partaker of the Divine Life whenhe acts as he does? Inconsistency of life casts a very serious doubt upon many who call themselves the children of God. Nowonder they are, themselves, often the subjects of doubts and fears-as they ought to be-for if they judge themselves by theirfruits, they may well question whether they have ever been born-again! Those who are new creatures in Christ Jesus seek tolive as He lived as far as it is possible for them to do so.
Besides, if a man for a while brings forth the fruits of righteousness and then bears the fruits of iniquity, he casts a slurupon all his former goodness. Suppose I saw a fig tree bearing olives and its owner assured me that it bore figs last year?I would say, "Well, I should not think the figs were worth much to judge from the look of those olives." So, when a man isin a passion and makes use of very strong language, perhaps even cursing and swearing as Peter did, one naturally asks, "Canthat man ever have been a Christian?" "Well," says someone who knows him, "he used to speak very kindly and lovingly, andseemed to be a sincere Christian." That may have been the case with him, but it is a poor sort of Christianity that can evenoccasionally produce such iniquity! May God save all of us from bearing two kinds of fruit in this unnatural and dishonoringfashion! Suppose the whole Church of God should act thus and at one time be eminent for holiness and at another time be notoriousfor sin-what would be the consequence? Suppose, for instance, that certain people were very particular about their attendanceat public worship and yet were known to frequent the theater? Would it not be a strange state of things? Should we judge themto be Christians or worldlings? If a man is sometimes a sinner and sometimes a saint, we would need to have an almanac totell us which he was likely to be, or a tide-table to let us know whether, like the tides of the sea, he was ebbing or flowing!Think, too, what the consequences would be to such a man if he were to die-or if the Lord were to come just when he was bearingthe fruits of unrighteousness!
I am only imagining a monstrous case-such a case as must not be ours. O my dear Friends, let it never be so with you! If Godis God, serve Him and follow Him! Or if the devil is God, serve him-but to try to serve God and the devil at the same timeis to attempt a compromise that God abhors and which even Satan is not mean enough to approve! Even his disciples laugh toscorn those inconsistent professors who seek to serve God and mammon and to walk, at the same time, in the narrow way thatleads unto life and in the broad road that leads to destruction! The other day I saw a man trying to walk on both sides ofthe street at once. Of course, he was drunk and whenever I see a man trying, spiritually, to do the same sort of thing-attemptingto serve God and to serve the devil, too-I know that he is intoxicated, or infatuated under a fatal delusion, or he wouldnever imagine that such a combination could be possible! Oil and water will not mix, nor light and darkness, nor saintlinessand worldliness-you must have one or the other, you cannot have both at once, so "choose this day whom you will serve," Christor Belial-you cannot serve both, for "no servant can serve two masters." The true Church of Christ is "fair as the moon, clearas the sun and terrible as an army with banners." But an inconsistent church, a double-dealing church, a worldly church, (whatan anomaly)-a church that holds with the hare and runs with the hounds, a church that makes a great profession but has littleor nothing worth having in possession-such a church is the scorn of the world, a mere blown-up football for men and devilsto kick wherever they will!
An unholy man or woman who pretends to be a Christian is a stench in the nostrils of the thrice-holy God and a byword andreproach among those who make no pretense of being the Lord's. How can you rebuke sin in others while you are living in it,yourself? How can you preach the Christ whom you dishonor in your daily life? How can you reprove worldliness when you are,yourself, worldly? We speak with contempt of Satan rebuking sin and of the pot calling the kettle black, so if in any degreeany of us have been guilty of this great crime against God, may we now sincerely repent of our sin and may the sanctifyingGrace of the Holy Spirit preserve us from such evil walking for all time to come!
III. Now, thirdly-and this is the point upon which I want most strongly to insist-IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR A FIG TREE TO BEAROLIVES-and it is impossible for an unconverted man to produce the fruits of righteousness! That is a task which is altogetherbeyond his power. The real text of this last division of my sermon is this-
"YOU MUST BE BORN-AGAIN." Unless you are regenerated, born from above by a new and heavenly birth, you are not Christians,whatever you may be called, and you cannot produce the fruit which is acceptable to God any more than a fig tree can produceolives.
Let us suppose that we are in the South of France and that we are standing by a fine fig tree. We want to make it bring fortholives and we will, for the sake of my argument, imagine that it is quite willing to do so-how shall we go to work?
Well, first, let us label the fig tree, "OLIVE TREE." Get a label, write the word, "olive tree," on it and hang it on thefig tree. We have done that, entered its name on the list of olive trees, and when the next olive season comes round, we willbring our basket and gather the olives. At the appointed time, we do come, but what do we find? I cannot see an olive on thetree! There are fig leaves and figs, but nothing else. Ah, but we called it an olive tree! Yes, but calling it an olive treedid not change its nature, for it is still a fig tree! And calling a person a child of God will never make that person reallybe a child of God! I remember reading of someone being taught to speak of "my Baptism wherein I was made a member of Christ,the child of God and an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven." And if I recollect, rightly, that expression is often used bythose who do not show any sign of having been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and adopted into the family of God! It is justa case of hanging a label on them-their nature remains the same as it was when they were born and, by nature they are childrenof wrath! Persons are said to be Christians because "they were born in a Christian country." I have often heard and read thatEngland is a Christian country, but I have never seen any evidence of the truth of that title! Though there are some Christiansin England, as there are some in India, China, Africa and other countries which no one regards as Christian! Yet accordingto some people, all Englishman are Christians, though some of them never enter a place of worship and others are drunk everynight in the week-and many do not even believe in the existence of God! To call a horse an angel will not make him an angel.And to call a man a Christian will not make him a Christian. You may label, enroll, number the unsaved as much as you like,but you will not make even one of them a Christian by that process any more than putting the name, "olive tree," on a figtree will change its nature and make it produce olives!
As re-naming the fig tree is no use, let us try to trim it to the shape of an olive tree. That will not be an easy task, forthe two trees bear very slight resemblance to one another. Still, we will see what we can do with axe, knife and shears, tomake the fig tree look like an olive tree. When we come again, at the proper season, to gather the olives, how many shallwe find? Not one, though we search diligently from the trunk to the topmost branch. If we have not ruined the tree by
our cutting and shaping, we may find figs on it, but we shall gather no olives! So we may be very careful in trying to shapeour children's lives and characters. We may teach them to be truthful, honest, upright, amiable, heroic and so on-and we maysucceed so far that some of them may even look like young Christians! But if the Grace of God has not made them to be newcreatures in Christ Jesus, all our training, trimming, shaping and directing will leave them unsaved and we shall then searchin vain to find in them, "the fruit of the Spirit." There is far more needed than anything we can do! There must be a deeper,more enduring work than making them look and act like Christians-there must be a Divine work in the heart, a complete changeof nature which can only be worked by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit!
In our next attempt to get olives from the fig tree, we will treat the fig tree as if it were an olive tree. When at Men-tone,I have often noticed the men in the olive gardens digging a trench all round the trees and filling it with old rags and, somehow,the trees seem to draw suitable nutriment out of that strange sort of manure. Very well then, let us treat our fig tree inthe same fashion and dig about it and fertilize it with all the old rags we can find. We do so and wait patiently for theresult-and then we discover that we have wasted all those precious bales of rags which might have made the olive trees bringforth an abundant crop, for there is not an olive on the fig tree and probably even fewer figs than it would have producedif we had given it the nourishment suited to its nature! So you may take your young people and treat them as if they wereChristians and do all that you can to nourish the Divine Life that has not yet entered their souls-but all your efforts willbe in vain, for you cannot give them new natures-you cannot make the children of Adam into the children of God! You will dofar more lasting good by entreating the Lord to accomplish the great work of Grace which is altogether beyond your power-andby teaching each unsaved one, old or young, to pray David's prayer-"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spiritwithin me."
Here is our fig tree without a single olive on it! Now let us surround it with olive treesand see what a change that willmake in it. The tree is very lonely where it is, so we will see what helpful associations will do for it. It will be anotherdifficult task for us, but we will not shirk it, for we are determined to transplant it right into the middle of an olivegar-den-and we will tie it up to a fruitful olive tree and then, when it has no other trees near it, surely it must bear olives!But will it? Oh no-when the time of figs arrives, it will bear figs unless we have destroyed its fruit-bearing power by disturbingit-but there will be no olives on it except those that fall among its branches when the tree by its side is beaten to yieldup its thousands of purple, oily berries. So here is an unconverted man right in the midst of Christian people! He is notvery comfortable, for he feels that he is out of his element. He would be much more at home in a public house or at a musichall, or at home reading a novel or the newspaper-yet here he is surrounded by Christians. Possibly, like the fig tree tiedto an olive tree, the man is united to a godly wife, yet it is not enough to make him a Christian. He has a gracious, lovingdaughter-she has persuaded him to come with her tonight in the hope that he may get a blessing here, as I most sincerely hopehe may. But, my dear Friend, let me tell you that it is not sufficient for you to have a Christian wife, or Christian children,or Christian parents unless there is a work of Gracewithin your own heart-unless your very nature is changed by the Holy Spiritso that you are made a new creature in Christ Jesus! All these hallowed relationships and associations will only increaseyour condemnation! I must repeat to you Paul's message to the Philippian jailor, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and youshall be saved." And very likely it will then be possible to add in your case as in his, "and your house." God grant thatit may be so!
Now suppose we take that fig tree to the top of a hill, like the Mount of Olives, and plant it there?It is still a fig treeand it brings forth nothing but figs! Yes, and if the Lord were to take an unconverted man up to Heaven, just as he is, hewould remain unconverted even there. Unless and until he was born-again, the mere change of place, even from earth to Heaven,would not make him acceptable to God! He would be like that man without the wedding garment-and the King would say to hisservants, "Bind him, hand and foot, and take him away and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashingof teeth."
Perhaps someone asks, "But, Sir, what is it to be born-again?" Well, it is nota mere outward change of life. It is not simplya giving up of certain sins and a desire to possess certain virtues. It is as great a work as if you were to be annihilated-topass absolutely out of existence-and God were to make a new man in your place! Everyone who is in Christ Jesus is a new creation-oldthings have passed away and all things have become new.
"But can such a change as that be worked?" asks an anxious enquirer. "It would be a glorious thing for me if it could be workedin me." Yes, my Friend, it can be done by the Almighty Spirit and if you are ever to be found in the Presence of God in Glory,this change must be worked in you! I am speaking to some of you who have been very moral and admirable from your youth up,yet you have never experienced a saving change of heart, so to you I must repeat those solemn words of the Lord Jesus, "Exceptyou are converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven."
"Well," says some self-satisfied person, "I feel quite good enough already." Ah, that is the very strongest possible proofthat you are not good enough. Do you remember the people, in our Lord's lifetime on earth, who thought they were good enough,and do you recollect what Jesus said concerning their righteousness? "I say unto you, That except your righteousness shallexceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter into the Kingdom of Heaven." And that iswhat He says to you who think you are good enough. The man who has been born-again confesses with sorrow and shame that hehas no goodness of his own-and he ascribes all that is good in him to the Almighty Grace of God, alone. With Toplady, he sings-
"Because Your Sovereign Love
Was bent the worst to save-
Jesus who reigns enthroned above,
The free salvation gave."
"Ah," says another friend, "but if that is true, it makes my case so hopeless." That is just what I want you to feel, so thatyou may look right away from yourself and look alone unto Jesus! You cannot regenerate yourself any more than that which isnot in existence can create itself! It must be a work that is accomplished by Omnipotence and, therefore, no power less thanthat which is Divine can accomplish it. So you are obliged to acknowledge your absolute dependence upon the Grace of God.If He leaves you to yourself, you will be most certainly lost-and He is not bound by anything but the love of His own heartto interpose to rescue you. Therefore if, in His Infinite Sovereignty, as King of Mercy and of Grace, He deigns to smile uponyou and to create you anew in Christ Jesus, you will have reason to praise and bless Him forever and ever, will you not? Thatis the point to which I want to bring you so that you will admit that if you are ever saved, it will be all of God's Graceand all God's work from first to last!
"Oh, that I had this new birth!" cries one. That very wish, if it is the sincere desire and prayer of your heart, may be thefirst evidence that you have already been born-again, even as the Lord's testimony concerning Saul of Tarsus, "Behold, heprays," proved that he had already uttered the first cry of a newborn child of God! Remember that text which the Lord blessedto my conversion so many years ago, "Look unto Me, and be you saved all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there isnone else"-and do as I did, then-look and live! Look this very instant, by faith, to Jesus hanging on the Cross of Calvary,for-
"There is life for a look at the Crucified One! There is life at this moment for thee- Then look, Sinner-look unto Him andbe saved- Unto Him who was nailed to the tree."
If you will do this, that faith-look of yours will be the evidence that this new life is already pulsating within you! Andas this life is everlasting life, you have received that life which neither devils nor men can ever take away from you. "Hethat believes on the Son has everlasting life," and no man ever truly believed on Jesus and yet remained unregenerate! Faithin Christ is one of the first signs and tokens of the new life within the soul. If I find on you even one olive, I know thatit has the oil of Grace within it and that is proof positive that you are one of the good olive trees in the garden of theLord! If I found figs on you, I would know that you were a fig tree. But if I find only one little olive, I know that thehidden life that can produce one olive can produce bushels of the same sort and even larger and richer ones, to the praiseand glory of the great Owner of the olive garden in which you have been planted by His own right hand! The little feeble faiththat You have already exercised is the gift of God-and under the gracious nurture of His Ever-Blessed Spirit, it will growuntil you are, like Abraham, "strong in faith, giving glory to God."
May the Lord enable you to have done with yourself and to have begun with Him! The end of the creature is the beginning ofthe Creator. When you acknowledge that you cannot save yourself and trust Him to save you, He will do it! Cast yourself uponHim this very moment and then, by an act of Almighty Grace, the fig tree shall be changed into a fruitful olive tree and yourfruit shall be unto holiness-and the end everlasting life!
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: PSALM 56; 57.
Psalm 56:1. Be merciful unto me, O God, for man would swallow me up. Fighting all day he oppresses me. "Man has no mercy upon me, but,O God, be You merciful to me! If Your Justice does for a while let my enemies loose upon me, let Your mercy diminish theirpower over me, for they are very cruel. They would make a complete end of me if they could, utterly devouring me."
2-4. My enemies would daily swallow me up: for they are many that fight against me, O most High What time I am afraid, I willtrust in You. In God I will praise His Word. David means, "Through His Grace, I will praise His Word," for we cannot rightlypraise God unless He gives us the Grace to do it. To receive from God is most easy for us, but to return gratitude to Godis impossible except as His Grace enables us to do it. "In God I will praise His Word."
4, 5. In God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do to me. Every day they twist my words. This is a commoncalamity of God's servants and a common crime of the oppressors of God's people in all ages-"They twist my words."
5, 6. All their thoughts are against me for evil They gather themselves together, theyhide themselves, theymarkmy steps whenthey wait for my soul."They watch to see if they can find some matter of accusation against me, or some opportunity for temptingme to turn aside from my God. 'They mark my steps,' as the huntsman follows the trail of the lion he seeks to kill, so theyfollow my tracks to see if by any means they may slay me."
7, 8. Shall they escape by iniquity? In Your anger cast down the people, O God. You number my wanderings. David's was a lifeof wandering, from the sheep-folds to his father's house, then to the palace of Saul, then to the camp of Israel, then tothe palace, again, then to the cave Adullam, then among the Philistines-I scarcely remember all the places where he went,but there were at least 12 great changes in David's life. And God had them all written down and so He has all yours, you whobelieve in Jesus-all your wanderings are recorded because God sets a high value upon everything that happens to you! Not asparrow falls to the ground without being noticed by Him, and not a single step is taken by you without being noted by Him.
8. Put You my tears into Your bottle.This is thought by some to have been an allusion to an old Roman custom of catching thetears of the friends of the dying in a lachrymatory, or small bottle, and then burying them in their tomb. I see no reasonto believe that David meant anything so absurd! There is probably a very much better meaning than that to be attached to thesewords. Bottles, large capacious bottles, were used to catch the copious drops which streamed forth from the wine-press andDavid felt that his tears would be, in God's sight, as precious and as plentiful as the grape drops, and that a great bottlewould be needed to hold them-such a bottle as the Jews used for holding milk or wine. Though his soul suffered much sorrow,he believed God would treasure it all up-"Put You my tears into Your bottle."
8. Are they not in Your Book?"Are they not all duly recorded there?"
9. When I cry unto You, then shall my enemies turn back. "When I cry, they shall fly, so swift is prayer to reach the earand heart of God! And so kind is God to me."
9-12. This Iknow; for God is for me. In God will Ipraise His Word: in the LORD willIpraise His Word. In God have I put mytrust I will not be afraid what man can do unto me. Your vows are upon me, O God. "I am bound to praise You, I am bound tolove You and I will, come what may."
12, 13. I will render praises unto You. For You have delivered my soul from death: will You not deliver my feet from falling,that I may walk before God in the light of the living?
Psalm 57:1. Be merciful unto me, O God. He begins with the same note as in the last Psalm. It is a note that cannot be too often onthe Believer's tongue-"Be merciful unto me, O God."
1. Be merciful unto me. As an old writer says, "The tongue of the bell strikes on both sides, and the note is the same ineach case, 'Be merciful unto me, be merciful unto me.'" You cannot have that petition offered too often! David feels his deepneed of mercy and the great value of mercy and, therefore, he prays again and again, "Be merciful unto me, be merciful untome."
1, 2. For my soul trusts in You: yes, in the shadow of Your wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities have passedover me. I will cry unto God Most High; unto God that performs all things for me. "That perfects all things for
me," so it may be read. "That perfects all His mercies, all His promises-and who will perfect all that concerns me whateverit may be-unto this God will I cry."
3-5. He shall send from Heaven, and save me from the reproach of him that would swallow me up. Selah. God shall send forthHis mercy andHis truth. My soulis among lions: andllie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons ofmen whose teethare spears andarrows, and their tongue a sharp sword. Be You exalted, O God, above the heavens; let Your Glory be above allthe earth. "Exalt Yourself by overcoming all Your enemies. If they are very great, be You greater still. If they are mighty,be You the more mighty in my defense and so glorify Your holy name."
6-11. They have prepared a net for my steps, my soul is bowed down: they have dug a pit before me, into the midst whereofthey are fallen themselves. Selah. My heart is fixed. God, my heart is fixed: I willsing and give praise. Awake, my glory;awake, psaltery andharp: I myself will awake early. I willpraise You, OLord, among thepeople: I willsing unto You among thenations. For Your mercy is great unto the heavens and Your truth unto the clouds. Be You exalted, O God, above the heavens;let Your Glory be above all the earth.