Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. For the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and He also has become my salvation."
I. THE SUPREME ACT OF GOD'S GOODNESS. "God is my Salvation." He has been wonderfully gracious to us in bestowal - in the gifts of our being, of our spiritual nature with its varied capacities, of our physical nature with all its organs of activity and enjoyment, of our human relationships, of a rich and beautiful dwelling-place, etc. But his greatest kindness is felt by us to be in deliverance, in that which is called "salvation." Here, again, there is an ascent in the scale of Divine goodness; for higher than salvation from trouble, from sickness, from death, from personal captivity or political servitude, stands salvation from sin; and in the Messianic era this spiritual deliverance reaches its highest point; for it includes not only the negative side of rescue from present evil, but also the positive side of enrichment with corresponding good. It embraces:
1. Redemption from sin - its penalty and its power (its thraldom and its defilement).
2. Restoration to God - to his favor and to his likeness.
3. The hope of a higher and endless life in another world.
II. THE CONTINUANCE OF HIS GREATEST GIFT IN IMPARTING SPIRITUAL STRENGTH. He "forsakes not the work of his own hands." Having redeemed us from the power and condemnation of sin, and lifted us up into the state of sonship and heirship, he sustains us in our new and blessed life. "The Lord Jehovah is our Strength." He imparts the needful strength for maintenance in our course by
(1) the privileges of the gospel;
(2) the discipline of his holy providence;
(3) the direct influences of his own Spirit.
III. THE RESPONSE OF OUR HEARTS TO THE DIVINE LOVE.
1. The gratitude which finds utterance in sacred song. "The Lord... is my Song" (see Psalm 119:54). The Christian man should carry in his heart such a sense of God's redeeming love that he should be always ready to break forth into praise; his life should be a song of gratitude for the salvation of the Lord.
2. The confidence which excludes anxiety. "I will trust, and not be afraid."
(1) Many are the occasions of human fear and anxiety - the honorable maintenance of the family; the preservation of our personal integrity, both moral and spiritual; the faithful discharge of duty in the post we have undertaken to fill; the adorning of our Christian profession; our passage through the gateway of death, etc.
(2) We are wholly insufficient of ourselves to meet these, and to triumph over them (2 Corinthians 3:5).
Behold, God is my salvation.
I. WITH RESPECT TO HIS MORAL STATE. "God is my salvation." Some would have the aid, the consolation, and the favour of God, but refuse His salvation, and remain in sin. This, however, is vain and impossible. The privileges of a believer are unspeakably great, but they all are founded on that change which the grace of God makes in his nature, here called salvation. Salvation is deliverance, and how does this show itself in a believer? He is delivered from darkness (2 Corinthians 4:6). From insensibility (Ezekiel 36:26). From pride. From creaturely dependence. From a sense of condemnation (Romans 8:1). From slavery (John 8:36; Romans 6:22). He is delivered from misery, into union with God, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost; no longer a stranger and foreigner, but a fellow heir, rejoicing in Christ Jesus, and in the hope of His glory. Observe, to whom the believer refers us as the Author of this salvation — "God."
II. WITH RESPECT TO HIS AID. "The Lord Jehovah is my strength." If we have not yet learned that our own strength is weakness, and that we shall never be sufficiently strong until the Lord Jehovah Himself strengthens with 'all might in our inner man, we have learnt little of Christianity. But he who knows that God is his salvation, knows also that God is his strength. Dost thou fall? "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me." Art thou faint? "He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might He increaseth strength." Art thou wounded? A touch of the Divine hand shall heal thee. Art thou buffeted by Satan? God shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. In one word, behold a Divine and almighty power everywhere, and always surrounding you, sufficient for all purposes to bless, support, deliver.
III. WITH RESPECT TO HIS CONSOLATIONS. "And my song." Here is an allusion to the ancient custom of composing and singing sacred odes or songs upon occasions of any signal deliverance, or the communication of any peculiar blessing. Such were the songs of Moses and Miriam, when Pharaoh and his host were swallowed up in the Red Sea; of Moses, after he had brought the Israelites to the borders of the promised land; of many of the Psalms of David, etc. Observe, the subject of his song, "the Lord Jehovah." His nature; His dispensations.
IV. WITH RESPECT TO HIS CONFIDENCE. "I will trust, and not be afraid."
(J. Walker, D. D.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
1. We are far enough from it now. We have the song in our Bibles, we quote it in our pulpits, we sing it in our church services, but it is not in our modern life. There is nothing of it in the current literature. It is the function of the poet to give voice to the nobler thoughts and emotions of his time. Now can you imagine a poet of our times bursting out into a song like that; and if he did, would the editors of our first-class reviews be eager to glorify their pages with it? Instead of exultation in the name of God, there is all eagerness to avoid it. It is not that the age is indifferent: there is much real earnestness. The word "salvation" is not much in vogue; but the thing meant is by no means despised. If the spirit of earnestness now abroad had been foreseen fifty years ago, men would have thought that the kingdom of heaven was verily at hand at last. But now, here all around us, is the earnestness — philanthropic, moral, even spiritual, earnestness to a considerable extent; but where is the kingdom? Alas, it still seems very far away!
2. We are better than we were. Year by year there is some improvement. But not nearly enough. The end will not be brought within sight till the spirit of this old song comes back to us; till the nation as a nation, not one here and there among the people, but the people as a people, look upwards to the hills from whence cometh their aid; till the inhabitant on every side cries out, "Behold, God is my salvation."
3. Let it be remembered that trust in God does not mean neglect of ordinary means. We who believe in God are thoroughly with the humanitarians so far as they go. We believe with them in heredity and in its power for evil and for good; only we do not believe that there is any inheritance of evil so terrible that the grace of God cannot reach and save its victim, nor any inheritance of ancestral nobleness so excellent that the grace of God is not needed to make and keep pure, and to raise to still higher things. We believe in education, in refinement, in progress of all kinds, in all processes of evolution which are moving in the right direction, onwards and upwards; only we recognise that none of these, nor all of them together, quite meet the case, or mean salvation. There remain with us mystery, unsolved; sin, crying for forgiveness and cleansing; sorrow, scarce abated or diminished; death, with all its victory — mystery, sin, sorrow, death: all present, patent facts, not to be disputed, not to be conquered by the freest education, or the highest culture; and then there is judgment to come, to which the con. science is a witness not in any case to be forever silenced, though it may be hushed and quieted for a time; and there is the great eternity, the thought of which God has put into our hearts. When we look at these things we see our need, not of education merely, but of salvation, and heart and flesh cry out for God.
4. But is not this the watchword of the Churches? Do not they sufficiently represent the Divine factor in the world's salvation? Would that they did. Look, first, at the national Church. What is its great message? Is it, "Behold, God is thy salvation"? What we all want is to be so filled with the Spirit of God, and so thoroughly saved ourselves, that the keynote of every minister's sermon, and of every Christian's life shall be, "Behold, God is my salvation."
5. There is, indeed, a human side of Divine truth which is of very great importance. If God is to be my salvation, He must be in touch with me. If He show Himself to me, it must be in my likeness; if He speak to me, it must be in my language; if He act on me, it must be through my faculties and in accordance with the laws of my being. He is the God of nature as well as of grace. But important as it is to show the Gospel natural, it is far more important to hold fast to the supernatural.
(J. Monte Gibson, D. D.)President Edwards, says, "In 1742 I sought and obtained the full assurance of faith. I cannot find language to express how certain the everlasting love of God appeared; the everlasting mountains and hills were but shadows to it. My safety and happiness and eternal enjoyment of God's immutable love, seemed as durable and unchangeable as God Himself. Melted and overcome by the sweetness of this assurance, I fell into a great flood of tears, and could not forbear weeping aloud. The presence of God was so near and so real that I seemed scarcely conscious of anything else. My soul was filled and overwhelmed with light and love and joy in the Holy Ghost, and seemed just ready to go away from the body. This exaltation of soul subsided into a heavenly calm and rest of soul in God, which was even sweeter than what preceded it."
I will trust, and not be afraid.
I. THE GREAT MYSTERIES OF EXISTENCE HAVE A TENDENCY TO PRODUCE FEAR. Something depends, of course, on the susceptibility of the individual; a strong practical nature is not so much affected by mysteries; but there are few thoughtful persons who do not sometimes feel the shadow of them on the path; and the continual contemplation of them does not irradiate or dissolve them; they become only more impenetrable and more densely dark, and then comes the fear lest this aspect of them should never be relieved, lest they should be unfathomable and unconquerable forever.
1. Has not every thoughtful mind bowed and almost trembled before the great mystery into which so many others may be resolved — the existence of evil in the universe, under the government of an infinitely powerful and infinitely benevolent Being? We have, indeed, to consider that along with sin was introduced the Gospel — the glorious, all-sufficient remedy, by which sin is to be taken away and purity restored; but they exist together. The remedy, although we have the utmost confidence in its perfect sufficiency, does not destroy the disease in a moment; it struggles with it, and overcomes it only by slow degrees, and in some instances the disease seems to return with increasing virulence, and to reassert its supremacy after the cure has been more than half effected; while, in a multitude of other instances, the remedy never takes effect; at all, and whole generations of human beings are swept away by death, in a moral condition that augurs ill for any future happiness. He who can say that he has had no difficulties with such a subject, only shows that he has had no thoughts about it. And yet it is not at all desirable to be under the influence of this oppression of evil; it is very desirable, and quite possible, to rise superior to it. But how? "I will trust, and not be afraid." Many have tried to reach the ground of satisfaction by knowledge. They have said, "I will know, and not be afraid"; but they have had no success.
2. There is great mystery also about the plan of Divine providence in this world. We see glimpses of Divine meaning shining out of the plan at intervals, and we make our way with certainty to some of the leading principles of that providence. We are sure, e.g., that God is the friend and protector of the righteous man, and yet, see how some righteous men are tried! And see, on the other hand, how ungodly men rise into influence sometimes. If we gaze upon God's great providence in the hope of being able to scan its parts and explain all its movements, we shall be sadly disappointed. But if we cease from the vain attempt to understand the complexities of providence and, looking above all its visible movements, rest our faith on Him who conducts them all, we shall begin to have peace. It would be easy to mention many other providential mysteries which are very appalling and perplexing to the natural understanding. Do you say, It is all according to law? But are you not afraid as you see how stern and unrelenting law is? Where is your relief? Will you try to vanquish nature and providence by thought? Will you resist and seek deliverance by strength? Will you be wiser and trust? Ah, that is relief!
II. THERE ARE CERTAIN POSSIBILITIES, THE THOUGHT OF WHICH HAS A TENDENCY TO DARKEN THE SPIRIT WITH FEAR. Unsatisfied with past and present, we cast our hopes always within the veil of the great tomorrow; but our fears go with our hopes. And it is not merely that there are such bare possibilities in every man's future, but these are always shaping themselves into probabilities. Perhaps there is no one person who cannot fancy, and who is not sometimes almost compelled to expect, some particular form of ill, something which he shrinks from. What is the remedy? "I will trust, and not be afraid." There is yet one dread possibility, the contemplation of which is more appalling than the very worst of earthly calamities — the possibility of spiritual failure, ending in a final exclusion from the presence of God and the joys of the blessed. There is but one way of grappling with and overcoming this great fear.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
(Mrs. H. W. Smith.)
(Prof. Laidlaw, D. D.)
(T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)
The Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song.1. He is the strength of my understanding, whereby I discern and acknowledge the great mysteries of salvation, and am enabled to perceive the way in which I ought to go.
2. He is the strength of my heart, of which He takes the direction, working in me to will and to do of His good pleasure; giving the willing mind, which makes His work go forward with alacrity and cheerfulness.
3. He is the strength of my affections, which tie preserves from becoming languid and feeble, and fixes them upon the proper objects on which they ought to terminate.
4. He is the strength of my graces, who establisheth my faith, enliveneth my love, animateth my hope and patience; who enableth me to resist my spiritual enemies, to vanquish temptations, to mortify corruptions, to perform duties, to sustain afflictions, and to surmount all the obstacles that lie in the way to the kingdom of God.
Great Thoughts.At least twenty-one times in his letter to the Philippians, written in prison, does St. Paul use such words as joy, rejoice, gladness, while the whole letter is charged with the spirit of joy. This is the real spirit of the Gospel.
Great Thoughts.When the poet Carpani asked his friend Haydn how it happened that his church music was so cheerful, the beautiful answer was: "I cannot make it otherwise; I write according to the thoughts I feel. When I think upon God, my heart is so full of joy that the notes dance and leap, as it were, from my pen; and since God has given me a cheerful heart, it will be pardoned me that I serve Him with a cheerful spirit."
Gates of Imagery.The wife of Hawthorne, the American writer, said in a letter to her mother: "Sunday afternoon the birds were sweetly mad, and the lovely rage of song drove them hither and thither, and swelled their breasts amain. I kept saying, 'Yes, yes, I know it, dear little maniacs, I know it! There never was such an air, such a day, such a God! I know it! I know it.' But they would not be pacified. Their throats must have been made of fine gold, or they would have been rent with such rapture quakes." Human beings are compelled to declare in song the ecstasy which is at times in their souls because of the goodness of God. They cannot help being tunefully demonstrative when the Infinite Being comes into their souls, and makes Himself known as a gracious visitant by the plenitude of blessing He bestows. If the great visitation be to them on the week day, they give praise for it in the music which attested their jubilant enthusiasm on the Sabbath. If the great visitation comes to them on the Sabbath, they can scarcely tell whether they belong to earth or to the paradise never darkened by evening shadows, and in their singing they endeavour to emulate "the voice of harpers, harping with their harps."
(Gates of Imagery.)
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