“I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O LORD:”
THE Psalmist realized that he could not avail himself of all that was typified by the altar, unless, so far as he knew himself, he had washed his hands innocency. But he also knew that the washing, to be effective, must be in costlier waters than those of his own innocency. The soul requires a Savior who comes by water and blood, not by water only.
The compassing of the altar is probably a picturesque way of describing the joyous or penitent circle of worshippers that gathered around the altar; and which needed to be prepared for by the usual lustrations, “Of the doctrine of baptisms and of laying on of hands.”
(Hebrews 6:2) We must separate ourselves from known sin, and wash our hands in innocency, if we are to enjoy the blessings of the alter and its sacred associations.
There is the sacrifice of the burnt-offering, which stands for Christ’s perfectness and entire devotedness to God on our behalf.
But how can we be utterly given up to God unless, so far as we know we are innocent of presumptuous and cherished sin?
There are the sacrifices of the meal-offering and the peace-offering. But how can we feed on Christ, or feast with Him in holy rapture, whilst we are concealing the stains of the hands that take the food?
There is the sacrifice of the sin-offering. But is it not a sacrilege to claim a share in its blessing if we permit those very sins which cost the Savior agony and tears? No, we must come out and be separate; we must be willing for God to examine and prove us; we must hate the congregation of the wicked, their conversation and ways; we must occupy ourselves perpetually with the Divine lovingkindness and truth. So only can we compass the altar of God, and taste its comfort and help.
“One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.”
ONE purpose dominated prayer and life. It was never long absent from the Psalmist’s thought. The men of one idea are irresistible. The arrowy stream will force its way through the toughest soil. See that all the prayers, incidents, and circumstances of life sub-serve one intense purpose. String all the beads on one thread. When the eye is single, the whole body is full of light.
The Psalmist’s purpose. — What a blessing that the Psalmist’s purpose may be ours! To dwell in the house of the Lord is to live within the vail in fellowship with God, in the habitual recollection of His presence. To behold His beauty is to keep looking off unto Jesus. To inquire in His Temple is to commune with the Lord about all the concerns of home and business, of church and commonwealth. In senses of which the material Temple could give but a faint conception, we may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of our lives.
The Psalmist’s search. — Let us seek after this as well as pray for it. Let it be the fixed purpose and resolution of every day. Let us begin with it in the morning, and at every spare moment remember that we have boldness to stand in the Most Holy Place. Oh to be as intent on this high quest as the man of science to discover nature’s secrets; as the business man to make a fortune; as the brave explorer to extort the secret from the Polar Seas!
True prayer will never be presumptuous. It will not ask God to do for us what we may do for ourselves. It will ask as though all depended on asking, but it will seek as though all depended on seeking.
“Thrice blest, whose lives are faithful prayers; What souls possess themselves so pure?”
“Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance: feed them also, and lift them up forever.”
THE people of God are here compared to a flock, scattered over many hills, marked by differing brands, sheltering in varied folds, but under the care of one Shepherd, and being conducted to one Home.
The holy soul is as eager for the welfare of the Lord’s “beautiful flock” as He is. Whatever is dear to the loved ones is dear to the lover. You cannot love the pastor without taking a keen and constant interest in all that interests him, and especially in the sheep of his pasture, and the people of his hand. Hence when you are nearest the Lord, you are almost certain to begin pleading for His inheritance, and saying: “Save thy people; and bless thine inheritance: feed them also and lift them up forever.”
“Lift them up forever.” The Good Shepherd bare His flock through the desert, and carried them all the days of old. It is as easy for Him to bear a flock, as a single lamb. Jesus does not simply lead us to green pastures and still waters, He bears us, and He bears us up, and He does so forever. Never tiring, though He imparts infinite rest; never ceasing for a moment His shepherd-care. Are you depressed today? Are there strong influences dragging you down? Does your soul cleave to the dust? Let those strong arms and that tender breast lift you up forever. A dying child asked her father to place his arms beneath her weary, emaciated body. “Lift me,”
she said. He did so. “A little higher.” He did so. “Higher, father.”
And when he had lifted her as high as he could, the convulsive movement proved that Christ had come to lift her up forever.
“The voice of the LORD maketh the hinds to calve, and discovereth the forests: and in his temple doth every one speak of his glory.”
THIS psalm describes a thunderstorm gathering over the Mediterranean, passing with devastating fury over Palestine, and finally dissolving in floods of rain on the pasture-lands of Bashan and Gilead. But how differently such a scene is regarded!
To the man of the world it presents an interceding study, or awakes spasms of fear: to the man of God, contemplating the scene from his safe hiding in the Temple, it seems as though nature, with a myriad voices, were proclaiming the glory of God. Many storms are sweeping athwart the world just now. Our standpoint for watching them must be God’s presence-chamber.
Somehow, everything that has been, is, and shall be; all that seems startling and dreadful; all that excites fear and foreboding — shall conduce to the glory of God. Wait, O child of God, in patient trust; Jehovah is King, and He shall sit as King forever; all is under law. “For of Him and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever.” (Romans 11:36) Our body in the temple of the Holy Ghost: does every whit of it say, Glory? I know of few things that stir my heart more than the repeated ascription of “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.” But is that the refrain of our life? Outside there may be confusion and storm, wild chaos and desolation; but see to it that from your heart’s shrine there rises moment after moment the ascription of “Glory be to Thee, O Thou most High.”
“Glory to God, to God, he saith. Knowledge of suffering entereth, And life is perfected in death.”
“For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
THE Hebrew might be rendered, “Weeping may come in to lodge at even”.
See, at nightfall, a black-vestured guest comes to thy heart. Thou must let him in; he brings a warrant from your King for his quartering and entertainment. But he is only a lodger; he has no abiding-place with thee; at daybreak he must be gone.
Canst thou not bear with him for these brief hours? It is only for the brief space of an Eastern summer-night. Let the first tint of the dawn flush yon sky, he will go. Like the ghosts of fable, he dies in the light.
Now, see, the morning breaks! Who is this hurrying up the hill, and knocking at the door? Hark to his joyous shout! Who is this?
Ah! It is Joy. The child of the morning light! The first-born of Resurrection! And he comes not as a lodger, but as the Lord and Master of Life, to abide forever. Oh, welcome him in the name of the Lord, and throw open each chamber and each closet in your heart, that all may be filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
And as he enters, sorrow and sighing flee away. They have passed out at the back as he came in at the front.
Joy in the morning at the resurrection of Jesus: Joy in the coming of the Savior for His bride: Joy as the Millennium breaks on the world: Joy when the Eternal Day comes to gladden those who have drunk of Christ’s sorrow, and shall share His bliss.
Child of God, be on the outlook to welcome Joy. Do not fear his advent, nor thrust him away. Milton’s L’Allegro is a truer presentation of Christian experience than Il Penseroso, “And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the Lord thy God hath given unto thee.” (Deuteronomy 26:11)
“I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy: for thou hast considered my trouble; thou hast known my soul in adversities;”
MEN have a way of forgetting their companions when they fall into adversity. They do not know them or visit them, or recognize them if they meet them in the street. But the love of God is always most tender and considerate then. He seeks us out when the sky is shadowed, and life is overcast with somber tints.
Adversity, so far from alienating Him, draws Him closer, and brings out His tenderest, loveliest traits. He knows us in adversity.
It in only when we are overtaken by adversity that we are revealed by the innermost depths of our nature. God knows us in adversity. “And thou shalt remember,” said Moses, “all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, to prove thee, and to know what was in thine heart . .” (Deuteronomy 8:2) What revelations of unsubdued pride and imperious self-will are afforded, when we are searched and tested by the fiery trial of pain!
“Thou hast known my soul in adversities.” Is it not enough that God should know? Need we go to all our friends and explain to them all we are called to endure? Is not this a needless addition to their sorrow, and the sorrow of the world? What a glorious piece of advice the Master gave, when He said, “Anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret, shall reward thee openly.” (Matthew 6:17,18)
“Thou know’st our bitterness! — our joys are thine!
No stranger Thou to all our wanderings wild!
But yet Thou call’st us Brethren! Sweet repose Is in that word;— the Lord who dwells on high Knows all, yet loves us better than He knows.”