By Horatius Bonar
"I will hear what God the Lord will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints; but let them not turn again to folly." -- Psalm 85:8
LET us meditate on this verse under the following heads: (1.) The listener; (2.) the speaker; (3.) the message; (4.) the confidence; (5.) the issue.
I. The listener. "I will hear," says the writer of this psalm. He speaks as a listener, as one whose ears are open. "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." This is our true attitude, into which we came at conversion. God said, "Hear and your soul shall live"; he "opened our ear to hear as the learned," i.e., as "one who is under teaching." So we began to listen; and in listening found life. Such is to be our life; a life of listening; not to man, nor self, nor the world, but to God. As creatures, listening is our proper attitude, much more as sinners. Let the willing ear be ours. How much we lose by the closed ear!
II. The Speaker. God, the Lord; God, even Jehovah. Other speakers may win the ear of the multitude, but it is to God the Lord that the saint listens. His voice is powerful. Its tones are penetrating; its words attractive. God speaks as one entitled to be heard, expecting to be heard. He speaks with authority, waiting for our obedience to the heavenly voice. To less than such a speaker we do not feel constrained to listen, but to Him we must. He speaks, we cannot but hear.
III. The message. He will speak peace to his people. It is peace that Jehovah speaks, for he is the God of peace; "he maketh peace in his high places." Peace is the substance of the message that has all along been carried to us; peace, peace to him that is afar off, and to him that is nigh; peace in heaven; peace on earth; peace between man and God; the peace of pardon, the peace of reconciliation, the peace that passeth all understanding,--peace through the blood of the cross, through Him who is our peace. It might have been wrath, nay, ought to have been wrath; but it is not wrath, only peace; for He is long-suffering and slow to wrath; nay, God is love.
IV. The confidence. The Psalmist knows what he is to expect from such a God. Before the peace comes, he knows that it is coming; for he knows the God to whom he is called upon to listen. This is the confidence which he has in Him. He does not listen uncertainly, as not knowing what will come forth. He has heard of this God before,--of what He does and speaks--and he opens his ear in happy confidence. He is sure that no wrath will come, only love, only peace. This God is the God of salvation,--the God who gave his Son. Shall He not then speak peace?
V. The issue. "Let them not return to folly;" or, and "they shall not return to folly." He does not say, Let them not turn to folly, and then he will speak peace to them; but he will speak peace first, and then they shall not return to folly. This is God's order; the true and divine order; the reverse of man's. It is not first holiness and then peace, but first peace and then holiness. The root of all holiness is peace with God. Till the clouds are rolled away, and the sun shines out, we cannot be warmed and enlightened. Till the frost is gone, and the ice dissolved, the river cannot flow on and water the fields. Christ did not say, Go, and sin no more, and I will not condemn thee; but, "Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more."
We are in rebellion. Our chief controversy with God is as to the gospel of peace. Our unbelief of this is our sin of sins, our master-sin, to which all others are subordinate. How can we abstain from the lesser sins so long as the master-sin remains; so long as there is no peace between us and God, but only rebellion and controversy. The first step to a holy life is being at peace with God.
In order to a holy life God must come in and dwell in us. He cannot do this till he has brought us into peace with himself,--till we have listened to and believed the tidings of peace which he hath spoken. Reconciliation must be the beginning of all indwelling; and this reconciliation is the result of our believing His message of peace.
Nor indeed has the soul leisure to attend to good works or growth in holiness till the question of peace has been settled. That question must ever be foremost, engrossing us absolutely, and leaving no time nor inclination for anything else. It is too momentous to be left in uncertainty; too vast to be taken up along with others. This great point between us and God once settled, we are free to devote our undivided energies to the work of progress; not till then.
A saint then is one who has listened to God; who has heard the words of peace from His lips; who has believed them; who has been reconciled; and who knows that he is so. Therefore He seeks to be holy. He hates his former folly. He does not return to it. He does not make his free pardon a reason for returning to it.
Brethren, be consistent! Beware of sin, folly, unholiness of every kind. Be Christians out and out. Shew that the peace you have received is a holy peace.