THERE is one thing peculiarly sweet in connection with the gospel of God's grace. It is that which suits the prodigal when he is brought home to the Father's house, as well as when he is in the far country wanting bread. Hence I have no sympathy with the remark which is sometimes made, "Christians do not want the gospel." Of course it is one thing to preach the gospel to Christians, and another thing to preach it to poor sinners by the wayside who have never received it; but as for the gospel, by which I understand all the riches of the grace of God, we always need it: for myself, I expect to enjoy the gospel nowhere so much as in heaven.
This thirty-second psalm is one of the Asherite -- i.e. blessing-psalms. Psalm 1 describes the perfect Man, the object of God's affection and delight. Psalm 32 is the blessedness of the one whom the Shepherd has found and brought home. There is a verse at the close of Psalm 2 which connects itself with this in some way; the same idea is repeated in Psalm 33: 21, and Psalm 34: 8. It is connected with the word trusteth.
The subject I desire to look at in this Psalm is the blessedness of the saint who knows, like David, after the terrible guiltiness which occasioned such conflict within, the shelter of the cleft in the Rock, opened to him so that no discovery in himself can frighten him out of it. It is not only that I am picked up as a poor sinner, a brand plucked out of the burning, but there is something in God's character developed in this. I am picked up and put in the cleft of the Rock. Then, being set there, the peculiarity of the blessing involves something more -- mercy I have found. Where has that set me? Not only has a mortal disease been found in me, and a remedy provided, but when I come to look at the remedy, I find in it altogether something peculiar. In God's dealings with the poor sinner, then, there is something far beyond anything in creation. Nothing there was needed to bring forth the down-stooping of God; neither would it have been for His glory as Creator to have tolerated that in the creature which was unworthy of Himself. But the secret thing hidden in the character of God', in His eternal counsels, was redemption. In redemption you get what had no expression in creation; that is. the expression of Himself, of His own character which He gave in handing forth from His heart the Son of His love; not to a cup of blessing in the garden of Eden, but to a cup of wrath on the cross; not to be glorified on earth, but to take the place of ruined sinners. God's ways are past finding out. To enter more deeply into what He is, to rest there, is what our souls need. In Him we are rich. Here is a bright spot for the soul. How happy for me to be a vessel chosen for the showing out of what are the riches of grace hidden in God. God had His own character complete just as much before the manifestation of this attribute of His mercy to the sinner. Just as the father's heart was the same when the prodigal was in the far country, as when he was brought back. "It is meet that we should make merry and be glad:" just so with God. There was nothing new in Him, but it is the display of divine love, as here in Psalm 32, far beyond the display of divine glory at creation. The angels desire to look into these things. In Rev. 5 none taste redemption-blessedness save two parties -- God and the poor sinner. The angels cannot sing that song. "Let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me."
Let us try to look at this; God and a poor sinner standing together. God knows what He is, and what we are. If we only look at ourselves there is no help for us. Satan never suggested that I have sinned, but God must bear the punishment. There is something in God's thoughts that quite sets at defiance man's mind. We could never think how God had riches in Himself, by which He could provide by His own love for our salvation from the depths of misery and condemnation. We should never have thought of the way in which He has communicated this new life by the new nature, and the Holy Ghost dwelling there. I think of the moral character of God, and can He take up a poor sinner and make him fit to sit down with Him? "I know a way," said God -- "mercy. My love shall go and pluck the brands out of the burning, and so bring me more glory than the first creation could have done. I will bring to light this attribute of my moral character, and produce it in them." There is nothing in the nature of the sinner but what God hates. The light of God shining into a man shows him what he is.
There are three kinds of evil spoken of here -- "transgression," which supposes a command men have swerved from; "iniquity," which is opposed to moral purity; and "sin," which is erring from God. Christ was the contrary of all that is in man. There was none of all this in Him to be covered. Besides these three things, there is in the experience of the man, inward guile. There is an inward veil over the heart, and that is the worst kind of moral evil. This has to come out to the light, and here is the great difficulty with ourselves. If we know ourselves we shall be conscious of this, and there is an inward fire burning. We cannot say we have had no guile; we know we have.
Saul of Tarsus found the fruit of his sin, not in the bottom of his own heart, but up in heaven -- "I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest." We never know ourselves, but we must be ready to say to our flesh, "Let God be true, and every man a liar." David's joy was in being a vessel to contain the blessedness of all this grace shown in the forgiveness of all transgression, iniquity, sin, guile. Were there a fold, in which was one poor sheep that had wandered and been lost, and the shepherd had gone forth and rescued it at his own great suffering, I suppose that would be a marked sheep, because by that sheep the character of the shepherd would be most displayed (see David, in 1 Sam. 17); and to David's heart here there was evidently this: "I am one whom the Shepherd has picked out to show His character. Not simply what a happy person I am, but what glory the Shepherd has got for Himself by showing mercy to such an one as I am." David knew God was seeking to get Himself a name by what He was doing. This is the very richness of the gospel to the poor sinner who believes it. If I think of a firebrand plucked out, a poor sinner who deserved wrath rescued, there is a sort of effort to think of not getting my desert; there will be a sort of exercise of soul before one is perfectly at rest. There will be a less degree of this, if the work of the Shepherd who sought the sheep is the prominent thought; but if I think of the One for whom I was sought, then there will be deep joy in the soul of knowing what a welcome I shall have there.
The turn between the fifth and sixth verses is very beautiful. In verse 5, mercy has been found for the individual. In verse 6, we see what God has done by bestowing mercy on one, to get Himself glory, so that others may be encouraged to come to Him. If a John Bunyan, a Saul of Tarsus, a Peter may come, I may. "Well," the poor sinner will say, "God picks up the worst, the very refuse, to show that it is nothing in the poor sinner that entitles him to notice; but mercy draws, and none can hinder." "Nothing but God's mercy brought me here," would David say. In verses 3 and 4, David had spoken of his guile before God. There is nothing which even the natural man detests more than guile (a guileful man, if known to be so, is ruined); but the answer to all in David's soul is, "I have found mercy."
Then, in verse 7, he goes on to appropriate what was in God. This is just what we have learnt in spirit with respect to Christ. Man strained up to reach that forbidden tree, but Christ stoops down to take the cup of wrath, that He may save the lost; and He brings us up to His place of blessing. He not only has opened to us the things which are given, but He gives us to know God for us. All that is His, ours. Not merely outside things, but the Father's house is not complete without the children. This house of the Father's is ours. It is the Father's house, not merely God's house. The glory, the Father's love, all is ours. "The glory which thou gavest me, I have given them;" and then, to show there was no restriction in the love, "I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it, that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them." So David here takes up everything m the same way. "Thou art my hiding-place." But we see what David could not see; viz., that the Spirit is given to us -- not only the spirit of revelation, but the Spirit within forming the affections suited to the relationship, "Abba, Father." The mercy is according to God. All our sentient needs are met by it, and the man is without guile.
These three blessings are given, and then God begins to deal with the man from the other extremity of His own blessedness, so that he can say, "All that thou art is mine. That glory that is in thee -- mercy will be as a wall of fire round about to compass me in." David's heart was bubbling up with the living waters, and then (v. 8) God lets out His heart to him, to show him how He would come down to him down here. It is not only I, but thou -- "I will be with thee where thou art in thy trouble and sorrow" -- which is the thought conveyed. It is a much deeper thing to be able to say, "I am my Beloved's," than "my Beloved is mine." All that God is gives me rest; and deep is the blessedness, knowing that I have Him as my portion; but to know that I am indeed His, that He is with me in all circumstances, so near to me, is a deeper experience still.
The minds of the saints one seldom finds rising above Romans 8: "Who is He that condemneth? It is Christ that died," etc. Blessed experience indeed! But it is more to feel and know how God is entering into all my circumstances. I do not here mean as the God of providence merely, as Christians speak of Him. I do not doubt but He is the God of providence to the world quite as much now as He was in the days of Jonah and Nineveh; but some will try to strain the grace of Christ through providence, and this is wrong, and is sure to bring in disappointment.
A dear saint of God I knew, now at rest with Him, did this. He took up the providential blessings of Psalm 91, and when the plague was raging around him in the East, he felt sure it would not come nigh his house. The pestilence seemed to depart for a time without having touched him. It speedily returned, however, and cut off his wife. What desolation of heart followed! But it is another thing for the heavenly man, a saint brought into heavenly blessing, to be finding God associating Himself with him in every step of the wilderness. This brings in resurrection, while the other does not. It is not deliverance out of the troublous circumstances that we must look for, but it is to learn our God as the God of resurrection in the midst of death. In all the rolling down and rolling up again we et something connected with Christ. (See 2 Cor. 4 and Rev. 1) Neither Paul nor John were taken out of the trial. Not as God appeared to Abraham -- El-Shaddai, but "you will have trial down here; but I will be with you in it." The Lord speaks to John of what He is -- the One who is "alive for evermore;" therefore it was, "Fear not." The Lord did not deliver him from his sorrow in Patmos. So with us. We must expect to find circumstances of death encompassing us here; but to know God as the God of resurrection in Christ. brings in fuller peace, and deeper, blessing, because it brings Himself so close to us as our Father, numbering the very hairs of our head.
Christians generally are not nearly so much occupied with Christ as with themselves, neither do their circumstances bring them to Christ. If one may answer for another, I am sure all will have to confess how little we have known of what it is to have our Father with us down here. Not only does the light of Christ's glory stream upon us through the veil, the rent veil; not only is the bright eye of Jesus our risen Lord upon us, but our God is here. Let us confess our shortcomings in the apprehension of it; and however impassable every sorrow may be to my mind, still the Father and Christ are close to me to teach me resurrection power in and through the circumstances, and make me know that "the excellency of the power is of God, and not of us."
This psalm is a psalm for the wilderness. Mercy meets in it the firebrand fit for destruction, the wandering sheep brought back by the Shepherd; and then God cheers the heart as it, goes on with the knowledge of what He is to it, thus pouring in the oil of gladness.
from Memorials of the Ministry of G. V. Wigram. Vol. 1. [Notes on Scripture; Lectures and Letters. Second Edition, Broom 1881 (First Edition 1880)]