Man pleaser or God pleaser?
Where do we fall?
Which side do we land on?
"This present world is an evil world and it has become so by the sin of man." (Matthew Henry).
"The Lord is great, great indeed, who knows no limits of time or place. He has an absolute power, and may do with it what He will. This absolute almighty power is of universal extent; He does what He will in heaven, in earth, in the sea, and in all the deep place that are in the bottom of the sea or the bowels of the earth."God is great and greatly to be praised. Hallelujah!
I must admit that this psalm made this sinner smile this morning. It is a psalm that resonates as real in my life. It has been my prayer. It has been my lot. It has been my hope. It is my certainty.
For 13 months I have cried out of the depths for God to hear my voice. He has often appeared silent. More often than that I have often appeared stubbornly deaf! Over the course of the past 2 weeks He has seen fit to pull me out of the depths and to put me radically back into the arms of redeeming grace. I am overwhelmed at His mercies to me. This psalm, in so many ways, is a mirror of my recent days.
In these eight verses we see the cry of the afflicted, the reality of their sin, the promise of forgiveness to the repentant, the need for patient perseverance while in the trial, the rule of God's word as our guide in the darkness, the lovingkind character of our God even when all would say it is not so, and the declared fact of abundant redemption - that is ultimately ours in Christ. Wow! There is much here.
First, the psalmist is in deep waters. "Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O LORD." He is surrounded and sinking. "The best men may sometimes be in the depths, in great trouble and affliction" (Henry).
Second, in these deep waters he cries out to His God. "Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O LORD. Lord, hear my voice! Let Thine ear be attentive to the voice of my supplications." Sinking times must be praying times!!
"In the greatest depths, it is our privilege that we may cry unto God and be heard. To cry out to God is the likeliest way both to prevent our sinking lower and to recover us out of the pit." (Henry)
Third, let us always recognize our sinfulness. "If Thou, LORD, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?" Folks, friends, fellow failers... do we have any idea just how wretched we are left to ourselves? There is NOTHING good in us - save Christ. All of our most righteous deeds are but filthy rags - the MOST righteous ones - and if God were to treat us as our sins deserve we would be decimated in the dust. But...
Summing up these two points Mr. Henry writes:
"We cannot justify ourselves before God or plead 'not guilty.' If God were to deal with us in strict justice, we would be undone. It is of His mercy that we are not consumed by His wrath. It is our unspeakable comfort, in approaches to God, that there is forgiveness with Him,for that is what we need."
Fifth, we must wait upon the Lord. "I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait." Sinking times should be praying times and praying times are often waiting times. Patience is a virture that is most frequently developed in the school of affliction. Sanctification is not a microwave meal. There is no "easy" button. There is no quick fix. There is the long haul -therefore, wait upon the Lord.
"I wait for the Lord; from Him I expect relief and comfort, believing it will come, longing till it does come, but patiently bearing the delay of it, and resolving to look for it from no other hand."
"We must hope for that only which He has promised in His word, and not for the creatures of our own fancy and imagination." (Henry)
I love the comparison with those who watch for the morning. Morning dawns. We know it is coming. Even so - honestly, more so - the morning of our redemption from the pit is coming. This picture presses us to be confident in the coming of our conquering Captain.
The psalmist is in essence saying:
"Well-assured that the morning will come; so am I that God will return in mercy to me, for God's covenant is more firm than the ordinances of day and night, for they shall come to an end, but the covenant is everlasting!" (Henry)
Eighth, our hope will not be disappointed. "O Israel, hope in the LORD; for with the LORD there is lovingkindness, and with Him there is abundant redemption. And He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities."
After 13 months of drowning in the sea of forgetfulness. After a little over a year of hanging on to hope by a thread - a tattered and torn thread - I have seen the abundant redemption of the LORD poured out upon me - a sinner who cannot stand on her own. But - He has made me stand. He is making me to walk on the water with Him - the very water that pulled me under on my own.
Watch and pray, my friends. Watch and pray - redemption will raise you from the depths!
"The church of God has been often greatly distressed by its enemies on earth. God's people have always had many enemies, and the state of the church, from its infancy, has frequently been an afflicted state."
You who are counted among the beloved Israel of God on this day, are you being hounded by the hoardes of hell? Are those who hate your Father pursuing you, His child? Take comfort in this psalm. There is much hope found in its contents and there is much hope found even in its context - for this psalm is a song of ascent as have been the 10 previous psalms. This psalm about the persecuting plows of the wicked is a psalm that the church of old sang on its way to worship. May we be moved to worship as we examine it - not matter who is striving to stop us!!
Here Israel is encouraged to speak as one man - this psalm is personal because their persecution (while corporate) has been personal. They have been trampled upon - each of them. They have been pursued - every one of them. They have been taken captive - all of them. It is not difficult for them to look at their circumstances and to speak personally - as one man. It is true, "many times they have persecuted ME from my youth up."
This is descriptive language, poetic language, picturesque language. Their enemies have sought their destruction through harsh and painful means. They have set upon them as a farmer would a field. They have put the plow to the body and soul of these folks and have sought to tear them asunder. If they could have their way they would rip Israel to pieces, limb by limb. They want to demorilize them. They want to demolish them. They want to decimate them!
Henry sums it all up well, very well:
"The enemies of God's people have all along used them barbarously. They tore them as the husbandman tears the ground with his ploughshare. When God permitted them to plough thus He intended it for His people's good, that, their fallow ground being thus broken up, He might sow the seeds of His grace upon them; even though the enemies meant it not so!"
"The church has always beeng graciously delivered by her Friend in heaven. The enemies' projects have always been defeated. Christ has built His church upon a rock, and the gates of hell have not prevailed against it, nor ever shall. God has cut asunder the cords of the wicked. He has cut their gears, their traces, and so spoiled their ploughing. He has cut their scourges, and so spoiled their lashing. He has cut the bands of captivity in which they held God's people." (Henry)
But the wicked are not so...
Those who hate Zion will be brought to shame. They will be turned backwards. Their forward momentum will take a 180 and they will find their own plows to be pursing their own backs!! The wicked are sovereignly destined for destruction by the God whose beloved they have belittled!! God will not be mocked and His people will not be jostled without justice!
Turning one last time to Henry:
"As they are enemies to Zion they are so certainly marked for ruin that they may
be looked upon as the grass on the house-tops, which is little and short and sour and good for nothing. It withers before it grows up to any maturity, having no root; and the higher its place is - which perhaps is its pride - the more it is exposed to the scorching heat of the sun, and consequently the sooner does it wither."
Plowing persecuters don't prevail. Praising people do!!
In His glorious grace,
All of us want a blessing. We naturally want things to go well for us. We long to prosper, to flourish, to succeed in life. Yet, many flounder and fumble and falter and fail. Life is hard. Things don't go as we would devise. Our plans don't always execute as orchestrated. What to do? How to respond? How can we be blessed?
Blessed and earthly successed are not always synonymous. Real prosperity doesn't necessarily mean an expansion of goods and an increase of worldy gain. True blessedness and ultimate well-being are not found without but within. The ninth psalm of ascent gives us the true secret of true blessedness and the one key that shall truly unlock everlasting well-being.
The psalmist wrtes:"How blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways."
Doesn't it echo Solomon's words from Ecclesiastes 12?!
A quick perusal of just a few of the Proverbs will give us further examples of the blessedness of fearing God - of rightly revering Him, humbly honoring Him, and acquiescing to His authority.
By grace through faith in Christ, fear God and walk in His ways. There you will find a fountain of life and a river whose banks overflow with true blessedness.
I love Matthew Henry's take on this:
"Whatever befalls you, good shall be brought out of it. It shall be well with you while you live, better when you die, and best of all to eternity."
Two particular categories of terrestrial blessedness are given as examples in this psalm. The blessedness of successful labor and the blessedness of a godly family.
"He shall have something to do (an idle life is a miserable life) and he shall succeed in his emplyoments and enjoy what he gets." (Henry)
Blessing - real blessing...
"In every nation he that fears the LORD and walks in His ways is accepted of Him and therefore is blessed by Him whether he be high or low, rich or poor. In this world, if religion rule him it will protect and enrich him." (Matthew Henry)
Be blessed - everyone of you - be blessed!
Do you want a well built house? Do you want a well built family? Then you want God as your architect!! "We must depend on God's blessing and not our own contrivance for the raising of a family" (Matthew Henry).
Don't labor in vain trying to create a faithful family - leave it to God to design the blueprints and then follow them! Who is the builder of our homes? What architect are we relying upon? Are we living in a strong and solid site built structure or in a massively manufactured man made mess?
"Unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain."
The grand Architect and omnipotent Watchman is also a benevolent Benefactor. He gives to His people. He gives to those who live in His houses, who rely upon His rule, and who rest in His security.
A home built on Christ, a home guarded by God is a home full of rest and peace and blessing. Knowing that our homes are well-built and well-protected we can sleep soundly knowing that even while our eyes are closed and our minds are dull that our gracious God is still meeting our every need - perfectly - abundantly - continually. Oh - the rest of the righteous is sweet!
"Behold, children are a gift of the LORD; the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they shall not be ashamed, when they speak with their enemies in the gate."
"Children are a heritage and a reward and are so to be acccounted as blessings and not as burdens, for He that sends the mouths will send the meat if we trust in Him. Children are a heritage FOR the Lord as well as a gift FROM Him. The family that has a large stock of them is like a quiver full of arrows, of different sizes we may suppose, but all of use at one time or another; children of different capacities and inclinations."
I for one am thankful this day for a well built house. It is not a perfect house, it is full of sinners (mainly full of me!) - but it is a secure and settled house becaue it's architect and wathman is Christ! It is built on a solid rock and all of the rains of this life shall not sink it. (Matthew 7:24-27)
God has indeed built and is still building our home. It is He who heads it up. It is He who keeps it going. It is He who loves and leads and guides and guards us. While my quiver has only two arrows - and two incredibly different arrows - they are the arrows He has given and they are the arrows that I entrust to Him to use as He would most see fit.
I am a well blessed woman in a well built house and I am grateful beyond measure!!