By Henry Law
Faith makes strong professions, and utters earnest prayers. May such be the exercise of our hearts unto life eternal!
1. "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"
This ode begins with a noble outbreak of triumphant confidence. Faith is in loftiest exercise. Foes indeed surround; they are distinctly seen. Their presence and their might is not ignored. But no fear troubles; no dismay appals. Why? The believer knows that he is united to his Lord, and one with Him in the closest bonds; and that he has full interest in all the Lord's perfections. No darkness can bewilder, for the Lord is his light. No destruction can overtake, for the Lord is his salvation. His life can never perish, for the Lord is its strength. May we never rest until our lips can sing thus happily!
2. "When the wicked, even my enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell."
Here is the character of the adversaries of the Lord. They are the wicked. They are Cain-like, who was of that wicked one, and killed his brother. And why did he slay him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous. We see striking fulfillment in the garden of Gethsemane. The traitor enters with his evil band. Jesus meets them calm in the majesty of deity. His eye, His voice shatter their boldness. They cannot stand before Him. They go backward and fall to the ground. Such is the sure downfall of all the foes of Jesus.
3. "Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident."
Hosts of men are less than nothing compared with heavenly guards. When the trembling servant cried, "Alas! my master, what shall we do?" the prophet answered, "Fear not, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them." Elisha prayed, "Open his eyes that he may see." He saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. Even so, let us only believe and we are safe.
4. "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 enquire in His temple."
One supreme desire occupies the believing heart. He longs for close communion with the Lord. He diligently uses all appointed means. He seeks the ordinances which God's presence sanctifies. Such is the constant habit of his soul. It is no passing impulse. He pursues this hallowed communion all the days of his life. His eyes would see the beauty of the Lord, the lovely charm of His transcendent grace, displayed in redemption's wondrous work. His soul thirsts after fuller knowledge. His ardent cry is, "Show me Your glory."
5. "For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret of His tabernacle shall He hide me; He shall set me up upon a rock."
The result of faithful obedience is assurance of security. When troubles come like a flood, they cannot reach the tranquil worshiper. He is calm in the recesses of his Lord's presence. The curtains of His pavilion are spread around him. He stands high upon a rock. That rock is Christ. Those who are thus uplifted are far above the reach of hostile shafts. From his high stronghold he can look down and smile on all the rage of those who would destroy him. This rock is near. We are invited to its refuge. Let our steps hasten; then we are safe indeed.
6. "And now shall my head be lifted up above my enemies round about me; therefore will I offer in His tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises unto the Lord."
Assurance should be ever sought, and it may be scripturally won. The head no longer will hang down. It will put on the helmet of salvation. It will look down in triumph on foes now impotent to hurt. This assurance brings offerings to the Lord's altar. They are the sacrifices of thanksgiving.
Assurance has, also, a joyful voice. It ever sings, and the song is praises to the Lord. Here is a test to prove our state. We, surely, are loiterers in the plain, and have not reached the height of scriptural delight, unless our hearts continually send up the incense of abounding thanks.
7. "Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice; have mercy also upon me, and answer me."
Assurance is far from presumption. While earth is the home, necessities will be present. Grace must be sought, and, therefore, with all praise, petition will be intermixed. The sinner, with all knowledge of salvation, still has knowledge of his sinful state. Therefore he never ceases to seek mercy. Knowing that God will hear and answer, he still will importune, Let answers come--give sweet tokens that my prayers prevail.
8. "When you said, Seek My face; my heart said to you, Your face, Lord, will I seek."
Faith hears the voice of God sweetly speaking in the Scripture page. It calls, it invites, it allures. It warns to arise and flee the vanities of earth. It tells of their emptiness. It promises peace and delight in the reconciled smile of God. The enlightened soul simply obeys. It flies away, and basks beneath the rays of heaven.
9, 10. "Do not hide Your face far from me; Do not turn Your servant away in anger; you have been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation. When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up."
The brightest sun may soon be overcast. Clouds may arise, and storms threaten, and darkness and chilliness interpose. Thus sense of sin, and consciousness of deep corruption, may stir up misgivings. Prayer wrestlingly beseeches that the smile so gladly sought may not become averted, and that no just wrath may close the door of conscious acceptance. Former supports are urged in plea. God is addressed as pledged by covenant to save, and bound by strongest ties never to desert or fail.
Earthly relationships are easily dissolved. Affection may decay. Fickleness begets estrangement. Distance may part. Death comes, and desolation sits where happy fellowship once reigned. But God's love in Christ is strong, immutable, eternal. He has the Father's heart, which beats with tenderness, incapable of diminution or of change. O Father, ever be a Father unto us!
11. "Teach me Your way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of my enemies."
We again see how warily assurance walks. The firm belief that God cannot forsake, increases diligence to desire for constant guidance. The holy fears awaken lest ignorance should lead into unrighteous ways, and cause the watchful enemy to exult. Teach me, lead me, are wise prayers. They bring the Spirit's light to shine upon the path, the Spirit's hand to give sustaining aid.
12. "Deliver me not over unto the will of my enemies; for false witnesses have risen against me, and such as breathe out cruelty."
We tread no path of trial or of suffering which is not hallowed by our Lord's preceding step. We taste no bitter cup which His lips have not drained. No misery afflicts us which He has not previously endured. The stings of slander are keen. It is anguish when false tongues persist in charging falsely. Jesus felt this. No scrutiny could find fault in Him; but still His judges must have a facade of evidence; therefore, false witnesses were bribed to fabricate malicious tales.
There is great mercy in these foreshadowing views of Jesus. They imprint the stamp of inspiration on the blessed Word. David not only stands a conspicuous type, but words are placed upon his lips which find fulfillment in the varied trials of our Lord. We thankfully adore the mercy. We feel in our grateful hearts, The Scriptures are eternal truth; we may firmly trust them. They cannot be broken.
13. "I had fainted, unless I had believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."
The original sentence is strikingly incomplete. The words, "I had fainted", are adapted as implying the soul's forlorn and sinking state, if faith and hope had not sustained it. But amid all sorrows and fears a joyful expectation cheered our Lord. He looked onward to the final display of God's goodness in the land of the living. He knew that death could not detain Him. He foresaw the glorious land, where He would reign the living head of a living family. Let our hearts confidently look onward. Soon the shadows will have passed away--the day will dawn, goodness will be the one atmosphere, and living souls will ever live.
14. "Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord."
The 'wonderful Counselor' exhorts His followers to be strong in Him. He asks them to trust as He had trusted, and they will find as He had found. May the Spirit help us to act out this precious lesson! May He so nerve our spirits that no despondency may ever weaken! And may our eyes be ever raised to heaven, waiting until mercies issue forth. If they tarry, still let us wait. In due time surely they will come.