If the LORD had not been on our side--let Israel now declare--
I. IT IS THE LANGUAGE OF ISRAEL'S GRATITUDE. We cannot tell what were the exact circumstances which are referred to; but many times in Israel's history had there been the threatening of overwhelming calamity. In the old times, in Egypt, in the wilderness, in Judah and Jerusalem, as during the invasion of Sennacherib, when they were carried off to captivity, and during that captivity (see the Book of Esther), Israel had abundant cause for such grateful acknowledgments as we find here. But the special circumstances we do not and cannot know; and this is well, for now we are left free to make application of them to any out of the many like circumstances which from time to time recur in the histories of nations, Churches, and individual souls.
II. IT IS THAT OF REDEEMED HUMANITY. Mankind everywhere, as well as the redeemed in heaven, might well render praise like this. For the whole human race was in dire peril. When men turned out so ill, as they did and still do, so that the Lord repented that he had made man, wherefore should God have preserved any of them alive? Their guilt, their wickedness, their subjection to the spirit of evil, - these were ready to swallow the race of man up quick. The might and malice of the devil were eager for the work. Why should it not have been? And the alone answer is - the love of God (John 3:16). And still today we often all but despair of humanity; the whole world, save a minute fraction, yet lieth in wickedness, dead in trespasses and sins, rushing ruinwards with headlong speed. But yet the race is spared, for the Lord is on our side. This is the gospel of man. God would not have created us had it not been true.
III. IT MAY WELL BE THAT OF THE CHURCH OF GOD. For often and often in her history has it seemed as if there were but a step betwixt her and death. See that boat on the Lake of Galilee in the midnight storm: it contains the whole of the disciples and Jesus, and he asleep. One wave more, and they would all go to the bottom, swallowed up quick, the proud waters had gone over their soul (ver. 3). But that wave never came. And so has it been again and again with the Church of God. Persecution for three long centuries did its worst; false doctrine has many times, from the earlier centuries down to the present, threatened to submerge the faith we held; worse still, corruption, vile and loathsome, has fastened on the life of the Church, so that religion has been hateful in men's esteem, as it was in the pre-Reformation ages. But the heart of the Church has remained sound amid all; the Lord was on her side, and so she has escaped as a bird, etc. (ver. 7).
IV. NATIONS, TOO, MAY ADOPT THIS LANGUAGE. See the times of the Armada: how fearful the peril seemed then! And so in the days of the French Revolution, when the colossal power of Napoleon threatened the life of every independent nation.
V. AND HOW OFTEN INDIVIDUAL BELIEVERS HAVE HAD CAUSE THUS TO SPEAK! In regard to the power of temptation, they have been all but gone, their feet well-nigh slipped. But the Lord was on their side. So in regard to the malice of enemies, and the cruel power of disaster and distress.
CONCLUSION. If the Lord has been thus on our side - as he has - we will, by his grace, be evermore on his. - S.C.
Our soul is exceedingly filled With the scorning of those that are at ease.
Homilist.I. Man's disregard for man EXPLAINS THE SOCIAL SORROWS OF THE WORLD. Were all men lovingly interested in each other, would there be pauperism, fraud, oppression, persecution, war, etc.?
II. Man's disregard for man reveals the MORAL APOSTASY OF MANKIND. The constitution of the soul, with its moral sense and social sympathies, as well as the Bible, assure us that man was made to love his brother, that no man should seek his own supremely, but each another's weal. Sin has broken the social bond, shattered the social temple, unstrung the social harp.
III. Man's disregard for man PROVES THE WORLD'S NEED OF A REDEEMER. If men do not care for men, who is to help the world? There is only One who can do it, and that is Christ. He came for this purpose, He came to redeem men from all iniquity.
If it had not been the Lord who was on our side.
Homilist.I. ACKNOWLEDGED AS THE DELIVERER FROM GREAT TROUBLES (vers. 1-5).
1. The words represent the great troubles from which the Almighty wrought deliverance, as springing out of the hostility of man.
2. The hostility of man is represented by two figures —
(1) (2) II. PRAISED AS THE DELIVERER FROM GREAT TROUBLES (vers. 6, 7). 1. Temporal. Israel in Babylonian exile. 2. Spiritual. Without figure, the unregenerate soul is in thraldom, and the Gospel alone can deliver it. III. TRUSTED AS THE DELIVERER FROM GREAT TROUBLES (ver. 8). This trust is founded — 1. On His past goodness. 2. On His glorious name. 3. On His unbounded resources. (Homilist.)
(2) II. PRAISED AS THE DELIVERER FROM GREAT TROUBLES (vers. 6, 7). 1. Temporal. Israel in Babylonian exile. 2. Spiritual. Without figure, the unregenerate soul is in thraldom, and the Gospel alone can deliver it. III. TRUSTED AS THE DELIVERER FROM GREAT TROUBLES (ver. 8). This trust is founded — 1. On His past goodness. 2. On His glorious name. 3. On His unbounded resources. (Homilist.)
II. PRAISED AS THE DELIVERER FROM GREAT TROUBLES (vers. 6, 7).
1. Temporal. Israel in Babylonian exile.
2. Spiritual. Without figure, the unregenerate soul is in thraldom, and the Gospel alone can deliver it.
III. TRUSTED AS THE DELIVERER FROM GREAT TROUBLES (ver. 8). This trust is founded —
1. On His past goodness.
2. On His glorious name.
3. On His unbounded resources.
II. THE CHURCH RIGHTLY RECOGNIZING HER DELIVERER (vers. 1, 2, 8).
III. THE CHURCH RIGHTLY EXPRESSING HER GRATITUDE (ver. 6). This psalm abounds with striking figures, which, intelligently explained, may be forcefully applied.
(J. O. Keen, D. D.)
I. HUMAN POSSIBILITIES MAY BE UNDER DIVINE CONTROL. Whenever God calls a life into existence, He fills it to the brim with "ifs" and "thens," with possibilities and their consequences. Take the first recorded scene in human life, remembering that it is highly symbolic. "And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden, to dress it, and to keep it;" that was a life of far-reaching possibilities, which God made still clearer by laying down His "if" and "then": if man obeyed, then all would be well; if he disobeyed, then all would be ill. God has treated every life since upon the same broad, universal Scale; and we need to bear in mind constantly, earnestly, that our life is arranged in the same fashion.
II. DIVINE DELIVERANCE FOLLOWS DIVINE CONTROL. God has filled each life with its possibilities that there may ever be the supreme need for His guidance. God has not stereotyped life for us. Each sets up his life's story from founts of movable type; it may be in this way, it may be in that, as we set the type. This makes life so magnificent, so awful. But when God is on our side, when we have chosen Him for our controller, when we set the type of life as He directs, then the printed page comes forth at last fair and clear upon imperishable parchment; and God shall read its record before assembled worlds, and pronounce it "well done," for it will be His work done by us under His superintendence and by His strength. Let the life be under Divine control, and it must be crowned with Divine deliverance as surely as sunrising brings the light.
I. TO PROMOTE OUR SPIRITUAL IMPROVEMENT. The branches are pruned, and they bring forth more fruit: the flowers are crushed, and they yield their precious perfumes: the gem is cut deeper, and it sparkles with new lustre: the gold is thrown into the crucible, and, purified from the dross, it shines with greater splendour than ever. Once, in company with a clerical friend in a rural district, I paid a visit to a member of his church, whose affliction had been severe and protracted. He was a stone-mason. His sufferings had evidently been sanctified; and, some remarks being made in connection with this, he said, "I must have been a very hard stone, sir; for I have needed a great deal of hewing."
II. TO TEST OUR SINCERITY. Not on a review day can the brave man be distinguished from the coward. Amidst brilliant uniforms, and waving banners, and the sounds of martial music, and applauding spectators, you cannot discriminate the true man from the counterfeit. But the real character is known, when comes the tug of war, and the enemy is before you, and friends and companions are falling thick around you. So it is in the Christian warfare. Far more moral courage is demanded for a sick-bed than for a field of battle, where men are urged on to the work of mutual destruction. And who can tell what a hallowed influence may proceed from afflictions, when endured in an uncomplaining and cheerful spirit!
(N. McMichael.)1. The figures employed describe the situation of God's people in any place or age, when they suddenly find themselves overtaken by calamity, when sorrow bursts upon them like the mountainous wave on a ship, when floods of ungodly men make them afraid, when they seem to feel in their flesh the teeth Of slander and malice, when they are unexpectedly entangled in perplexities and difficulties like the bird in the snare. So the early believers in the Messiah were troubled by Jewish and Roman persecutors, saints in many lands have been worried by Papal wolves, the evangelists of the last century were mobbed by worldly men, and the Christians in Madagascar and British India were more recently assailed by heathen foes. So the man of business is smitten by misfortune, disease springs upon its unsuspecting victim, and a family is diminished by death. So the convicted sinner is stricken by the terrors of God's law, the convert has to fight against the world, the flesh and the devil, and the righteous soul is in heaviness through manifold temptations. All the cry is, what can be dons? How may we escape? Who will help us?
2. If Christians, we can profitably call to mind many escapes from evil.
3. It becomes us carefully to trace blessings to their source. The poet is less particular to describe the danger and the escape than to proclaim and praise the great Deliverer. We did not save ourselves. It was not the stamp of our foot that quieted the earthquake, not the sound of our voice that stilled the tempest, not the might of our arm that slew the lion, not the power of our hand that rent the network. It was lint any creature except as sent by God, armed with a portion of His strength, and for the sake of Jesus Christ, that in any degree accomplished our salvation.
(E. J. Robinson.)
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