“The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.”
WHAT a contrast is presented in this Psalm between God’s words and man’s! “They speak vanity . . with flattering lips and with a double heart . .” (Psalm 12:2) God never flatters; His words are absolutely pure because they have passed through the furnace of His holiness, but they are therefore absolutely reliable and trustworthy.
As silver enriches its owner, so does the Word of God enrich its lovers. Nothing so strengthens the intellect, clears the judgment, enlarges the views, purifies the taste, quickens the imagination, and educates the whole man. The humblest day-laborer who imbibes the Bible becomes rich in thought and speech, and able to dispense his riches to others.
As silver is beautiful to the eye, so fair is the Word of God. After a boy born blind had been suddenly possessed of sight through an operation by a skilful oculist, his mother, led him out-of-doors, took off the bandages, and gave him his first view of sunshine, sky and flowers. “Oh, mother,” he cried, “why did you never tell me it was so beautiful!” With starting tears, she said, “I tried to tell you, my dear, but you could not understand me.” We need opened eyes, and then the Bible is more to be desired than fine gold.
As silver is pure, so is the Word of God; and it purifies. It has been the main purifying agent of the world. Though it deals with the corruptions of the human heart, it does so in such a delicate and holy manner as to excite within us something of the abhorrence of the Holy God. Like the passage of water through a sieve, it cleanses the heart and life.
“I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.”
HERE is the man who had sorrow in his heart all the day breaking into song! We do not find that his troubles were any less. The enemy was still exalted over him, and boasted of having prevailed; it seemed indeed as though he must soon sleep the sleep of death. But he never let go his trust. Whatever were his outward discomforts and trials, he clung to his God and waited patiently for Him; with the result that out of his stormy griefs he built a Bethel, and in the midst of his anguish broke out into song.
When we are sitting under the shadow of severe trial, God can wrap us about with the garment of praise, and fill our mouths with singing. Although the fig-tree does not blossom, and there is no fruit in the vines, yet the soul may rejoice in the Lord, and joy in the God of salvation. You cannot starve a man who is feeding on God’s promises; and you cannot make that man or woman wretched who has a clean conscience, the smile of God, and the love of Jesus in the soul.
When brave old Thomas Halyburton lost his much-loved son, he made this record: “This day has been a day to be remembered. O my soul never forget what this day I reached. My soul had smiles that almost wasted nature. Oh, what a sweet day! About half-an-hour after the Sabbath, my child, after a sharp conflict, slept pleasantly in Jesus, to whom pleasantly he was so often given…
Jesus came to me in the third watch of the night, walking upon the waters… He stilled the tempest in my soul, and lo! there was a great calm.” When God is bereaving us of all else, He may so fill us with Himself that we shall magnify His bountifulness.
“Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the LORD bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.”
IT is good to have an eye on the future, even though we get sometimes a little weary of waiting, and impatient of delay.
Here a captive soul transports itself to the hours when its captivity shall be ended; and although it cannot altogether suppress the “Oh!” of longing desire, it dilates with ecstasy, as it anticipates the outburst of joy that shall hail the Divine deliverance.
Let us look on and up. Bunyan tells us that the heart of the Pilgrim “waxed warm about the place whither he was going.” A real lover of Christ, who knows something of the law of sin in his members, and of the dull weight of this mortal tabernacle, is apt to have, at times, eager desires for his home and his glorious inheritance. Paul was one of the most eager of workers, but he was ever dwelling on the blessed hope.
“When,” exclaimed Baxter, “when, O my soul, hast thou most forgot thy wintry sorrows? Is it not when thou hast got above, closest to Jesus Christ, and hast conversed with Him, and viewed the mansions of glory, and filled thyself with sweet foretastes, and talked with the inhabitants of the higher world?” Such devout anticipations do not slacken our work down here during this little while. It is said of Samuel Rutherford that he was always studying, always preaching, and always visiting the sick; but it was he who exclaimed, “Oh, time, run fast! Oh, fair day, when wilt thou dawn?
Oh, shadows, flee away! Oh, well-beloved Bridegroom, be Thou to me like the roe or the young hart on the mountains!”
“The best is yet to be—
The last, for which the first was made.”
“LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?”
THIS holy soul was not content to stand in the outer court without the sacred tent; he coveted to enter where the High Priest entered, and to live there. It was impossible then; the way into the Holiest was not made manifest. No ordinary worshipper might pass the Vail, and the high priest who passed it once a year remained but a few moments.
How marvelously different our experience may be! We have boldness to enter into the holy place, and remain there, by the blood of Jesus; and, by the enabling of His Priesthood, we may spend our entire lives under the consciousness of the presence and favor of God. It is much like the servants of Solomon, to stand before our King, and to hear Him speaking, bidding us either to perform His errands, or fold the wings of activity in rapt communion.
This is not your experience? Then look carefully through the conditions which this Psalm enumerates. Perhaps you are not transparently truthful; or your tongue is not carefully controlled; Or you are not perfectly honourable in your business dealings; or you do not know the power of the blood of Christ, as it cleanses from dead works to serve the living God.
It is worth any sacrifice to maintain this habit of indwelling the Most Holy Place. Ask that it may become your second nature. The Lord Jesus will secure this, since He was appointed for us in things that pertain to God. Whenever anything in the inner life seems faulty and deficient, we may turn with unabated confidence to our High Priest, asking Him to adjust it, to bring us into the presence of God, and to keep us there.
“For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.”
THIS hymn is for ever sacred because of its application by the Holy Ghost to our Savior’s resurrection (Acts 2). It was as though our Lord had stayed His soul upon these words as He left this world and entered the unseen. The last words He uttered were of committal to His Father, and then He commenced to traverse the land of shadow. “Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?” (Ephesians 4:9) The Apostle Peter says that He went to visit the spirits in prison.
Whither He went is not material — it is enough for our purpose that He sang, as He went, this hymn of immortal hope. Sure that He was the Father’s beloved, He knew that He would not be left to Hades, nor suffered to see corruption. He knew that there was a path of life somewhere, which God would show.
Whenever you are stepping down into the dark, unable to see a hand’s breadth before you, and just letting the foot fall from step to step — it may be because of some act of obedience to conscience, or because you are called to enter the unknown and untried, or even death itself — cheer your heart with this holy Psalm. God will never desert the soul that absolutely honours and obeys Him. His way leads to the light through the dark, to the deathless through death, to the abounding fruit-bearing through desertion and loneliness. How lonely the vine-stock is through the winter! Follow Him, He will show.
“She is sinking very fast,” whispered an attendant in the dying chamber of a godly woman. “No, no,” was the quick response of the departing saint, who had overheard the words: “no; I am not sinking; I am in the arms of my Savior.”
“As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.”
TO a good man, then, this is the world of dream and shadow, and death is the awakening. We are like men asleep in some chamber that looks towards the eastern sky. Outside is the day with its revealing beams, but our heavy eyes are closed to it all. “Here and there, some lighter sleeper with thinner eyelids or face turned to the sun is half conscious of a vague brightness and feels the light, though he sees not the wealth of color it reveals. Such souls are our saints and prophets; but most of us sleep on unconscious.” But the moment is at hand when we shall awake and start up and declare ourselves fools for having counted dreams as realities, whilst we were oblivious to the eternal realities.
When we awake we shall behold the face of God. Likeness is properly “form,” and is the same word employed in reference to Moses, who saw the similitude of the Lord. We shall see Him as He is. There will be an outward revelation and manifestation of His lovely and holy character, and it will satisfy us completely.
“The glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6) And we shall be satisfied. The mind will be satisfied with His truth, the heart with His love, the will with His authority. We shall need nothing else. Heaven itself, with its outspread mystery of beauty, will not divert our gaze from God, nor contribute to our satisfaction.
To know God, to stand before Him, to realize that we are accepted in the righteousness of the Well-beloved — this will be enough for evermore.
“This life’s a dream, an empty show; But the bright work to which I go hath joys substantial and sincere: When shall I wake, and find me there?”
“Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.”
THE Nasmyth hammer which can pulverize blocks of tough metal, will break the shell of a nut without hurting the kernel.
In this it resembles this Psalm, in the earlier part of which there is one of the grandest descriptions that words can give of God’s mighty interposition on behalf of His threatened child. But here we are told that it is the Divine gentleness which has made him great. It is as though God’s power were exerted against our foes, whilst our education is undertaken by His love.
Review your life. See the perils from which you have been rescued; the process of your education; the slow degrees by which you have climbed to any eminence of Christian character; the method by which you have attained the power of influencing others: is it not attributable to the gentleness of the Good Shepherd? Not by sudden cataclysms and catastrophes; not by the earthquake, the fire, or the hurricane; not even by the stringent requirements of law; but by a succession of tenderest, gentlest movements of the Divine Spirit. He has remonstrated in whispered accents; He has seemed grieved and sad; He has turned and looked; He has sent a message by a woman’s lips; He has put a little child into your life to lead you; He has poured on you one continual stream of sunshine. Now, it has been the distilling of dew; and again, soft showers on the mown grass, and through all, the purpose has run of eliminating the self-life, and leading you to the full stature of the perfect man. The strongest soul I ever knew, one who seemed to have been fashioned by God’s mightiest strokes, was wont, to life’s eventide, to attribute all to the effect of God’s gentleness.