A Golden Psalm.
It is always interesting, and profitable surely, to trace the way in which the Spirit of God conducts the soul of the saint forward in truth, working, like the principle of life in vegetation, silently and unseen, but ever working, to carry forward the soul from its spring-time to its autumn maturity. A thousand influences may stand opposed, like the chilling winds and leaden skies, the biting frosts and devastating blight in nature; but in spite of all, with ceaseless, noiseless activity, yet in divine energy, the unwearied witness of a glorified Christ works on toward the desired end - the presenting every man perfect in Christ Jesus. As the Lord Himself said to unbelieving Israel, "My Father worketh hitherto and I work," so may we say of the Spirit of God; there is the same divine activity in goodness, not only in respect to saints in their corporate character, but towards individual believers. All are under the tutoring hand of the Holy Ghost as objects of unflagging interest and culture for the glory and joy of Christ.
Nor is it at all difficult, if we go back to a past dispensation, to find the same principle underlying the inspired words of David and others in the Old Testament. Like water seeking, and, if the supply be kept up, invariably attaining, the level of its source, so the sacred strain rises higher and higher till it loses itself in the immeasurable elevation from whence it flowed, and to which it has returned.
The sixteenth psalm is a case in point. The psalmist cries to El (the mighty One), trusting in Him. It is the place of dependent subjection; man trusting in God, and leaning upon Him in holy, confiding dependence. This is the key-note of the psalm. Fittingly then the soul addresses Him, though no words be uttered, and its language is, "Thou art my LORD" (Adonay, Lord in blessing). It is in fact Messiah upon earth who speaks, pleading His trust and confidence, and who then looking up unto Adonay says, "My goodness extendeth not to thee;" for He speaks as a man, and therefore will not assert His equality with God; but looking to the saints, says of them, "In whom is all my delight," or "my good pleasure." How beautifully does David's Michtam thus mark with precision the position of Christ as a man, taking a place of subjection here upon the earth, and in that place making Jehovah alone His portion, and the saints only His delight! Every false god He refuses utterly: "Their drink-offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips." With His whole heart He repudiated idolatry, that ancient sin of Israel soon to be more blasphemously revived: as a man upon earth Jehovah alone was Messiah's Adonay. And surely this was true of the psalmist, as it is today of every true saint of God.
The progress of the inspired strain is now marked clearly; for we read, "Jehovah" (name of divine relationship) "is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup; thou maintainest my lot." The soul of the saint is here confessedly in the presence of its object, and the heart opens to its own blessedness. First I speak of Him and of what He is to me, and then I speak to Him and of what He does for me. He is my portion, my all; or, as in Col. 3:11, when correctly rendered, "Christ is everything." The portion of my inheritance, and the portion of my cup. The "inheritance" of this verse and the "heritage" of the next are the future thing, while the "cup" and the "lines" are the present thing. He speaks first of the inheritance and then of the cup. How true is this in the experience of saints! Many an one knows that Christ will be his portion for ever, who has afterwards to learn that just as truly and as blessedly is He his portion now. Both are true -
"We want Thee here each hour of need,
Shall want Thee, too, in glory! "
And both are equally true and equally important. For when afterwards we have learnt that Christ is our portion all along the road, and that in Him are infinite resources for faith to draw upon, and when we have proved how utterly impossible it is to get along a single step heavenward without Him, we are apt to think that He is more to us and more necessary here than ever He can be there, where all the hindrances shall be gone. Ah! neither will that do; whether we are in the wilderness or in the land, whether in the furnace or on the throne, He is the essential element in all our blessing and in all our joy. For this reason to be with Him will be heaven, and to be like Him will be glory. When my heart has left its every weight below, when my new nature is unshackled and unassailed, when my spirit is emancipated from its burdensome clay and has entered upon the tenancy of a glorified body, its "house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens," what shall I find in heaven capable of addressing me in a way suited to my blessedness but the One who bled for me here to procure it? Whom shall I find, did I search every nook in glory, capable of assuring my heart amid its rapturous new-born joy, or of receiving the first adequate tribute of a love which Himself had inspired, save the One who became incarnate, that in life, and in death, and in resurrection, there should come forth unto His saints the revelation of His Father and our Father, of His God and our God? How fittingly then says the psalmist in another place, "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee."
Next we have the speaking to Him. It is a real privilege to the saint of God to speak of Christ; but how much greater the privilege of speaking to Him? especially since we know that with this is coupled an even greater thing, His speaking to us, as He said, "My sheep hear my voice." Here we speak to Him - "Thou maintainest my lot." Oh, what a joy it is, amidst all the exigencies and vicissitudes of this chequered scene, to be able to turn the heart from every opposing thing, as we read, "Though a host should encamp against me my heart shall not fear;" to be able to turn to Himself and say, "Thou maintainest my lot!" Oh, harassed, tried, troubled, sorrow-filled saint of God, look up from this time forth and exclaim, "Thou maintainest my lot!" How tranquilly, then, the soul passes to the discovery that our lot (whatever be its drawbacks) is a singularly good one. As we sometimes sing -
"O, Lord, how blest our journey, while here on earth we roam,
Who find in Abba's favour our spirit's present home."
In unison with this the psalmist says, "The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places (or the best places); yea, I have a goodly (or most excellent) heritage." In the eyes of the worldling it may not appear an enviable one, but "the secret of Jehovah is with them that fear Him." And when we have learnt that the Lord Himself is His people's portion, whether here or in glory, and that Himself is the maintainer of their lot, we readily acquiesce in David's words, and own the pleasantness and the goodliness of what His love has ordained for us. Dear reader, is it so with you? Whatever your lot below, and however it may appear to yourself or to others on earthly principles, can you look up and say, "The lines are fallen unto me in the best places; I have a most excellent heritage. Thou maintainest my lot"?
But the saints of God need guidance, and they also need instruction; and David's God was Paul's, concerning whom said the apostle, "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." So here we find, "I will bless Jehovah, who hath given me counsel." What beautiful confidence was the psalmist's - indeed, we may say, was that of Christ as a dependent man. He had turned to Jehovah, and Jehovah had answered him, and had opened his ear morning by morning to hear as the learner (Isa. 1. 4); and now with a worshipping heart he can testify of Him that He had given him counsel. And the night-season afforded its lessons too: when all else was hushed into quietude his own heart spoke, and its exercises yielded instruction of no little value. It is herein saints lamentably fail. They know so little of retirement of spirit in the presence of God, when no eye sees but His. In silence and solitude before the day broke, bringing its calls and its claims, its discords and its distractions, the psalmist had passed through a season of meditation, during which God wrought exercise of heart and conscience, which spread its sober and salutary effect over the day's activities. Surely herein is something to be coveted, and to be cultivated too by the saints of God.
But now we hear again and distinctly the voice of One greater than David, the prophetic language of One who was both David's root and David's offspring; for though the sweet singer of Israel no doubt entered into it in measure, only He who was Jehovah's fellow, "the faithful and true witness," could fully say, "I have set Jehovah always before me." Still the principle has its direct application for us also, and is of immense importance as a practical thing in the path of a saint across this poor world. "I have set," indicates settled purpose of heart, a distinct spiritual activity of the soul; and we, dear reader, may well ask ourselves whether we can say that we have thus practically enthroned Christ in the foreground, whether as a spiritual action of the new nature we have given to Him this commanding and abiding place before the soul, so that He is ever in front of us, never to be less than our one object, our one purpose, our one desire.
"My Lord, my Life, my Rest, my Shield,
My Rock, my Food, my Light!"
And if it is indeed thus with us, if this little couplet be the truth, and not mere lip-language, shall we not know the sequence in the verse as the blessed issue of His tender mercy, "Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved"? Is it not just like Himself, that when we have made Him our everything, He should take up His place at our right hand as the answer to our fealty of heart to Him, as though He said, Since you have put me before you, I will take sides with you and be for you, so that you may never be moved? The next thing is, that the effect of this is seen in gladness and rejoicing of heart as a present reality; there is resurrection, too, in the future. It is still the prophetic language of David's Son and David's Lord; and thus we read that in the same hour in which His heart was broken over the woe-deserving cities, "Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth." (Luke 10:21.) Shall we venture, dear reader, to tell you why you have so little joy of heart, so little gladness of spirit? and why therefore you and I are such a poor testimony of the power of grace, so poor epistles of Christ? Ah! it is because we have in so small a degree got Him as the one only ever-abiding and supremely enthroned object before the heart. The secret of joy is obedience, confidence and dependence; and every saint who is exhibiting a lack of it is publishing a libel upon Christ. The Man of sorrows in the hour of sorrow "rejoiced in spirit;" and no servant of His ever trod a more thorny path than he who said, "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice;" and who when he said it was in bonds, and apparently at the mercy of an imperial and cruel despot.
But we must hasten on. "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hades, nor suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." This was literally fulfilled we know in His case (Acts 2:25-32; Acts 13:34-37); for though He had power to lay down His life, and power to take it again, He was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, "crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God." And then finally we read that Jehovah opens before Him "the path of life." Death and hades could not imprison Him, were powerless to hold Him, and now He holds their keys (Rev. 3:18) for us His saints. Those in whom is His good pleasure, as in Him was that of His Father when He trod the path of life (albeit to Him through death) in this terrible world.
But in entering upon resurrection He has opened the path of life to us in all its inviting beauty before our souls, "a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's eye hath not seen: the lion's whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed by it." Faith delights to have Him conduct it along that shining way which His own steps have traced, that path of the just which "is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." In His presence even here on earth our fullest joy is found, and the fulness itself awaits us, and is surely very nigh at hand! Addressing Him, the saint loves to say, "Thou wilt show me the path of life" (is doing it, and will, the blessedness of it being enhanced a thousand-fold by His own discovery of it to our souls); "In thy presence is fulness of joy" (oft in measure proved down here, but to be immeasurably proved ere long when we shall know, if we have not yet learnt it, that His presence is more, oh, how much more! than the glory itself); "At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (the unceasing, unabating bliss which shall be ours in endless enjoyment in the place of dignity and glory).
Thus jubilantly ends this golden strain. The circle is complete. And just as a lofty rainbow crowning the summer skies derives all its splendour from the sun, yet spans with its beauty the earth from whence its elements have sprung, so throughout eternal ages shall the lustre of divine glory canopy the heavens and compass the earth, and the happy and undying refrain of our never-ending song shall be, "In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." W. R. (D).