The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked; His soul hates the lover of violence.
I. HERE IS A BELIEVER IN GOD EXPOSED TO PERIL FROM DESIGNING FOES. (Ver. 2.) Those who are upright in heart are hated by the wicked (cf. 1 John 3:12, 13). This is not to be wondered at, for righteous men by their righteousness are a standing condemnation of the ungodly (Hebrews 11:7). The Lord Jesus was pre-eminently the object of hatred by the world (John 7:7; John 15:18-24). In the time of the psalmist this hatred was expressed by plots for the destruction of God's servants (ver. 2). But, as if conscious of wrong and of the meanness and wickedness of their aims, men sought the cover of darkness for their designs (see ver. 2, Revised Version). What a mercy there is One to whom the darkness and the light are both alike!
II. HERE ARE WELL-MEANING FRIENDS GIVING THEIR ADVICE. (Ver. 1, "Flee as a bird," etc.) This is the counsel of timidity. There may possibly be circumstances in which it may be right to take flight (see Matthew 10:23). Although our Lord expected his disciples to be prepared, If Need be, to lay down their lives for him, yet he did not wish them unnecessarily to expose themselves to danger. So that at times, flight may be wise. But in the case of the psalmist, the whole tenor of his psalm indicates that it would not have been right, and that the counsels of his friends were those of timidity and even of cowardice. Note:
1. We may any of us be exposed at some time or other to this temptation
(1) to flee from the spot where we are placed;
(2) to quit the duty we have in hand, because of peril; or
(3) to resort to some safe nook, and thus consult our own ease and safety, regardless of the work in hand.
2. Such temptation may be even harder to resist when it comes from friends than if it came from foes. So our Lord Jesus found it; he felt Peter's effort to dissuade him from the cross far more acutely than he did Satan's (cf. Matthew 16:22, 23).
III. THIS ILL-JUDGED ADVICE MAY BE ENFORCED WITH PLAUSIBLE ARGUMENTS. (Vers. 1, 3.) The advice begins with the word "flee" (ver. 1), and ends with the close of the third verse. The arguments for flight are:
1. The secrecy of the designs of the wicked; since they work under cover of the darkness, it is best to be entirely out of their reach.
2. The grievous consequences of their success (ver. 3). If the men who are the strength and glory of a state are removed, the righteous therein will be dismayed, This is a more specious argument than the former: it is equivalent to, "If you care not to flee for your own sake, you owe it to others to guard yourself; for if you, as one of the supports of the state, are overthrown, what will the righteous people do?" The wicked would rejoice, and would seize the occasion for the purposes of rapine and murder; but the righteous would be in sore dismay.
IV. TO SUCH ADVICE, FAITH HAS A READY ANSWER. (Vers. 4-6.) The various features of this answer may be summed up in one sentence, "The Lord reigneth!" This is faith's rest and refuge in all times of trouble. Things are not left to the cross-purposes of man. There is a throne above all, and One sitting thereon. This fact has a manifold bearing:
1. On men generally.
(1) God sees all (ver. 4).
(2) God tests all (ver. 4).
2. On the righteous.
(1) God tries his people. He proves them to improve them (ver. 5).
(2) He loves the righteous; i.e. he approves them, and, in the midst of all confusion, he smiles upon them.
(3) He will crown them with honour at last (ver. 7, Revised Version).
3. On the wicked.
(1) He hates them; i.e. he disapproves their ways (ver. 5; Psalm 1:6).
(2) The time will come when that disapproval will be manifest (ver. 6).
The terrible figures used in this verse are probably drawn from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. What the dread reality may be, of which these words are symbols, God grant that we may never know! More fearful than any physical judgments is the adverse verdict of the Great Supreme (John 3:19). Note: It is all-important for a believer in God, in the midst of the greatest calamities, and of the most serious public disorder, so to maintain his calm serenity of soul, as to enable him thus to rest in what he knows of God and of his revealed mind and will.
V. KNOWING ALL THIS CONCERNING GOD, THE PSALMIST HAD ACTUALLY ANTICIPATED THE ADVICE OF HIS ADVISERS, though in another and a better way (ver. 1): "In the Lord put I my trust;" rather, "To the Lord I have fled for refuge." I need no other. He is mine. He will guard me. I am at rest in him. I will therefore stay where I am, and keep in the path of duty. I can calmly look on the raging storm, and wait till it has passed by. "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." Note:
1. The man who trusts in God has already a Refuge of which the ungodly man knows nothing.
2. That trust in God gives him the victory over his foes.
3. The God whom he trusts will be his Shield now and his exceeding great Reward hereafter and for ever! How much broader, deeper, and firmer should be our trust, now that we know God's love as revealed in Christ] "Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (1 John 5:4, 5). - C.
The Lord trieth the righteous.I. THE CHARACTERS TRIED — the righteous. This word righteous is used for two reasons.
1. Because in God's sight they are such.
2. Because they are such in the sight of men.
II. THE VARIOUS WAYS IN WHICH THE RIGHTEOUS ARE TRIED. They have their natural dispositions even as other men. Though trials come to all, they differ in character, and are proportioned in degree. Christians are tried when —
1. They are led to investigate the character and tendency of their life.
2. When special and direct afflictions are sent.
3. When alterations and changes in our family circumstances occur.
4. When temptations of a trying character are permitted to come in their way.
III. THE ENDS THAT ARE TO BE ANSWERED BY THESE TRIALS. There is nothing purposeless in the plans of God. We are tried —
1. That we may be corrected.
2. That we may be proved.
3. That we may be purified.Learn to recognise the Lord's hand in our trials, and to distinguish between the results of our own folly and God's chastisements. Let us rejoice in the anticipation of a world without sorrow, the "unsuffering kingdom" of our Lord.
(W. G. Barrett.)
1. Believers are righteous — by the pardon of the past, which conceals it as if it had never been. Because God puts within them a new heart and a new spirit. And practically, by fulfilling God's commandments.
2. Righteous people are tried. In one sense the probation of the wicked is over. Believing people are on trial. You have accepted mercy — and your trial is whether you will be faithful to the grace given, whether you will persevere to the end. The truth that there is a possibility of your falling away has its practical value. It ought to lead you to caution, vigilance, and self-denial.
3. It is the Lord who tries you. Then you will not be tried too much. The Lord has the control of all your trials, whether they come through prosperity, adversity, bereavements, persecutions, or the sufferings of others.
4. Why does the Lord try the righteous? That they may know themselves, to train and discipline character, to make us more useful, and to advance His own glory. It is God's opportunity of showing the truth of His promise to help. You ought to learn to get good out of your trials. "Glory in tribulations also," that the power of Christ may rest upon you.
(David Caldwell, A. M.)
( Thomas Guthrie.)
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