Psalms 90 - 100 are connected together, and seem to me to describe the dealings of the Lord with the Jews, etc., in the latter day on the earth. But I am not going to speak of that now. We may often derive comfort from principles which we find in such portions of the Scripture, revealing to us as they do God's character, etc.; but it is important to know the mind of the Spirit in the primary sense, as we shall then be able to discern what God is teaching us through them with a great deal more clearness and certainty.
The two principles which form the basis of what is dwelt on here are, that the workers of iniquity are allowed to lift up their heads and flourish, but that the Lord is, and will be, Most High for evermore.
There is the clear perception of this throughout. Under the temporary exaltation and prevalence of wickedness, the godly are in a very tried state, the righteous suffer; but vengeance belongs to God (not to the sufferer), therefore the cry. (vv. 1, 2.)
To such a height are the workers of iniquity allowed to go that, in the consciousness that the LORD'S throne could not be cast down, the question comes in, "Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law?" (v. 20.) So completely has wickedness got place in the earth that there is a sort of question raised, whether the throne of iniquity could subsist in companionship in judgment with the Divine throne. The answer is, judgment is coming - "The LORD our God shall cut them off." (v. 23.) Judgment shall return to righteousness in the place of trial and suffering.
The point on which I would dwell a little at present is the consolation of the saints during this time of trial - God's "comforts."
In the first place, we have the assurance - "The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity." (v. 11.)
Then - "Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O LORD," etc. (vv. 12, 13.)
As to the pride and purpose of man, it is settled in a word. The "thoughts of man" are not only inferior to God's wisdom, they are "vanity." That settles the whole question. All that begins and ends in the heart of man is "vanity," and nothing else. Whatever the state of things around, though there may be a "multitude of thoughts within," as 'what will all this come to?', 'how will that end?' and the like - every barrier we can raise, all our strength, all our weakness, whatever the wave after wave that may flow over us - the LORD's thought about it all is, that it is "vanity." All is working together to one object, God's plan, that upon which his heart is set, the glorification of Jesus, and ours, with him. Every thought and every plan of man must therefore be "vanity," because it has not this, God's object, for its object; and God's object always comes to pass. There cannot be two ends to what is going on. Let men break their hearts about it, all simply comes to nothing, the end of it is "vanity." God's object is, that "all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father."
Take a man of the world - the shrewdest calculator, the ablest politician, or the greatest statesman - a poor bedridden saint is wiser than he, and more sure of having his plans brought about; for the heart of the simplest, feeblest saint runs in the same channel with God's, and, though the saint has no strength, God has.
In this psalm we find, first, the tumult of the enemies - then, that God has done it. So with the saint constantly in trial: he sees the work of Satan - then, God's hand in it, and he, gets blessing. All the present effect of these dealings of "the wicked" is, "Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O LORD, and teachest him out of thy law; that thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit be digged for the wicked." The pit is not yet digged, the throne of iniquity is not yet put down.
If, in chastening, the power of the adversary is against us, the Lord's end in it all is, to give "rest in the day of adversity," etc.
I speak not merely of suffering for Christ - if we are reproached for the name of Christ, it is only for joy, and triumph, and glory to us; but of those things in which there may be the "multitude of thoughts within," because we see that we have been walking inconsistently and carelessly in the Lord's ways. Still it is, "Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord," etc. The Lord does not chasten willingly, without a needs-be for it. And when there has been failure or inconsistency that brings chastisement, He turns the occasion of the chastisement to the working out of the heart's evil that needed to be chastened, The Lord, in chastening, throws back the heart upon the springs which have been the occasion of the evil. The soul is hereby laid bare for the application of God's truth unto it, that the word may come home with power. It is taught wherefore it has been chastened; and not only so, but it is brought into the secret of God's heart - it learns more of His character, who "will not cast off his people, neither forsake his inheritance." (v. 14.) What God desires for us is, not only that we should have privileges conferred upon us, but that we should have fellowship with Himself. Through these chastenings the whole framework of the heart is brought into juxtaposition with God. And this stablishes and settles it on the certainty of the hope that grace affords.
Look at Peter after the enemy had sifted him. Though his fall was most humbling and bitter, yet by it he gained a deeper knowledge of God, and a deeper acquaintance with himself, so that he could apply all that he had learned to his brethren.
The Lord gives our souls "rest from the day of adversity" by communion with Himself; not only communion in joy, but in holiness. We are thus brought into the secret of God. Circumstances are only used to break down the door, and let in God. God is near to the soul when He in the certainty of love comes within the circumstances, and is known as better than any circumstance.
The LORD never chastens without occasion for it, and yet "Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O LORD." There is not a more wonderful word than that! I do not say that a man can say this always while under chastening; for if the soul is judging itself, there will be often anxiety and sorrow; but the effects are blessed. What we want is that all our thoughts, and ways, and actings of will should be displaced, and that God should be everything. All chastening must have in principle the character of law in it; for it is the Lord dealing with His people in righteousness (as it is said, "If ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work," etc.), not in the sovereign riches of divine grace. It is God's allowing nothing in the heart inconsistent with that holiness of which the believer has been made partaker. It is indeed most blessed grace that takes all the pains with us; but that is not the character it assumes.
What we exceedingly need is intimacy of soul with God, resting in quietness in Him, though all be confusion and tumult around us. When the man here had God near his heart, though iniquity abounded, it was only the means of making God's "comforts" known to his soul; as it is said, "In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul." (v. 19.) Our portion is not only to know the riches of God's grace, but the secret of the Lord - to have intimacy of communion with Him in His holiness. Then, however adverse the circumstances, the soul rests quietly and steadfastly in Him.
If, my friends, you would have full unhindered peace and depth of fellowship with God, and one with another; if you would meet circumstances and temptations without being moved thereby, it must flow from this, not merely the knowledge that all things are yours in Christ, but acquaintance with God Himself; as it is said, "Being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God."
May we, through grace enabling, let God have all His way in our hearts.