Let me hear Your loving devotion in the morning, for I have put my trust in You. Teach me the way I should walk, for to You I lift up my soul.
I. THERE IS A WAY IN WHICH MEN SHOULD WALK.
1. There are some ways in which a man cannot walk; as e.g. the way which would reverse the past, which would undo or alter that which is past. How much we should like to be able to do this! But it is impossible. What is done cannot be undone: even God cannot make that not to be which has been. Nor can we walk so as to retrace our steps. We cannot put back the clock of life, so as to recall the years that are gone. Forward our path lies; backward we cannot go. What urgency this fact gives to the Preacher's charge, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for," etc. (Ecclesiastes 9:10)! But:
2. There are some along which we must walk. Those which lead to the grave and to the judgment-seat of God. If death did end all, even then the squanderings of life's opportunities would be miserable folly and grievous wrong; but when we read and know that "after death the judgment," then the seriousness and responsibility of life become vastly greater - so great that we cannot over-estimate them. And there is yet another path in which we must walk - that which leads to the formation and fixing of our character. We are forever building up the fabric of character - building in the wood, hay, stubble, or the gold, silver, and precious stones. We are forming habits which are the garment of the soul. No day leaves us without having added its contribution to the final character we shall bear. But:
3. We have to speak of the way in which we should walk - the way we should deliberately choose and decisively prefer and cleave to, as the only right way. There can be no doubt of there being such a way (see Isaiah 45:5). There is a life-plan for each of us, a definite will of God.
(1) Nature attests this. There, everything from the minutest atom up to the most magnificent star, the drop of water as well as the wide ocean, have each and all of them their course marked out, the way they are to take. Nothing is left to chance or haphazard. Is it likely, then, that man, the highest creation of God, should be sent purposeless and without definite course in the world?
(2) And experience and observation confirm this belief. See the history of Joseph (Genesis 45:5-8). And of Moses and many more. We can see how God ordered their lives, and fitted them for the work he had for them to do. And for us there is no joy greater than to know that we are in the way God appoints. All difficulties and sorrows of the way can be borne if we know we are where God would have us be.
4. But man can refuse to walk in this way. How often he does refuse, and turn aside to his own self-chosen way! It seems right to him, but it ends miserably. It must do so. How terrible is this power of choice! Happy the man who has said to God, "Choose thou for me"!
II. THIS WAY IS OFTEN DIFFICULT TO DISCOVER, Who does not know that very often the doing of what is right is far less difficult than the discovering of what the right is? Many causes may contribute to this difficulty. It may be part of God's discipline for us. Earthly sorrow and trouble may bewilder. The faculty of clear seeing in such cases may not be ours. Self-will may pervert judgment.
III. GOD CAUSES MEN TO KNOW THIS WAY. By angels, visions, pillar of cloud and fire, by dreams, by Urim and Thummim, - so in ancient days he guided his people. And he guides them now: his Word, his providence, his Spirit, acting on our minds: reveal his will.
IV. HE DOES THIS FOR THOSE WHO LIFT UP THEIR SOUL UNTO HIM. - S.C.
Cause me to hear Thy lovingkindness in the morning.
Homiletic Review.: — There are days and days. There are days of darkness such as this psalm illustrates. Many think that David sung this psalm when he fled from Absalom.
I. IT WAS A DARK DAY FOR DAVID.
1. It was a day of hard environment. "The enemy hath persecuted my soul." Think of David fugitive, and climbing, in sackcloth, the slopes of the Mount of Olives. There are days when everything seems to go against us.
2. It was a day for David of clean discouragement. "He hath smitten my life down to the ground." Have you not been in such a discouraged day?
3. It was a day of despair. When hope has gone out and despair has come in, your hands hang and your step stops.
4. This was a day for David when memory made contrast (ver. 5). The only comfort for the soul in such plight is the memory of better days. That is a very bad, enervating mood when one, instead of looking forward, is perpetually looking backward. Oh, the brave apostles Though prisoner in Rome, "forgetting the things which are behind."
II. HOW TO GET OUT OF SUCH A DARK DAY AND MOOD INTO A GOOD DAY.
1. By prayer. "Cause me to hear." The soul addresses God; turns resolutely Godward.
2. By beginning the day with a sense of God. "Cause me to hear Thy lovingkindness in the morning." Count your mercies and begin the day by doing it. There is a way of looking at disadvantage in the light of advantage. Mr. Edison, partially deaf since childhood, was told by a specialist an operation would help him. He answered, "Give up an advantage that enables me to think on undisturbed by noise or conversation? No, indeed."
3. By constancy in trust. "For in Thee do I trust." Trust, and keep on trusting anyway.
4. By determining to do, and at all hazards to do the right. "Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk." Notice that — the praying and the walking; the search for the right and the resolve to do it. Darkness shall surely flee from such a soul. Such turning of dark days into good ones makes — character!
Homiletic Magazine.I. THE MORNING COMES AFTER THE NIGHT.
1. The night of mourning. "Our light affliction," etc. This is higher and sweeter than the motto on the sundial, "I count only the sunbeams." The child of God will count, to his wealth and joy, the darkness also. The night is glorified in the morning "lovingkindness," as night-formed dew is in the morning sun.
2. The night of conflict. The morning of victory will come.
3. The night of weary waiting. There is a morning of fruition and satisfaction.
4. The night of sin. Oh the morning of fresh and wondrous purity!
II. THE MORNING COMES BEFORE THE DAY. God's lovingkindness brings morning — the harbinger of a long day. Always, only morning; pointing on to a day whose "sun shall go no more down." A day of joy. "Everlasting joy shall be upon their head." A day of work. When men have a journey to make, or work to do, they start in the morning. So let us seek God's morning lovingkindness.
1. In the morning of every day. Let me hear Thy lovingkindness in the morning, that this whole day may be blessed and fruitful.
2. In the morning of life (Proverbs 8:17).
3. In the morning (at the beginning) of every new undertaking. Begin with prayer for God's lovingkindness and blessing.
4. In the morning of this year. It is still pure and sweet. Let its future hours be devoted to God.
Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk.
I. OPINIONS AND BELIEFS. There can be no living way for a man that does not involve these. A man is more than a growing tree or a grazing animal. Even those who speak slightingly of opinions, and lay stress rather on what they call spirit, and instinct, and practical action, when they rigorously analyze their own thought in this matter, are obliged to confess that in one form or another, separated from other things, or solvent in them, opinion and belief must be comprehended in spirit, even in instinct, in a measure, and certainly in practical action. But how hard it is now to form opinions and settle beliefs! Harder perhaps than it has ever been before, not only because we have more than the common amount of scepticism in the world, but because (as I verily believe) men are in some ways more sincere and more earnest than they have ever been before. They cannot so easily subscribe creeds, composed of many, and some of them hard enough propositions. What, then, are we to do? From this hour any one of us, if we will, may be of "them that believe to the saving of the soul." How? By bringing the whole case fully and earnestly before God. "Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk, for I lift up my soul unto Thee." There, and there only, you have the whole case; the meeting, and, in a measure, the settling of the difficulty. If we come really to Him, we have solved the difficulty, we have come into the new and living way, and God will make that way more and more plain before our face; whereas if we abide among the exterior things — examining, considering, comparing, putting this opinion against that, and working the whole matter simply as a high intellectual problem, without ever making the last and highest appeal — we have no certainty of a good and true issue.
II. CONDUCT. Even those who know the way they should go, so far as it consists of beliefs, convictions, principles, find it still in their practice to be a way of continual difficulty. It is easy to say, "Act on principle." Of course we must act on principle, but on what principle? What is the right principle for the case? Or what is the proper combination of principles? And how are they to apply?
1. It will sometimes be that all is dark as to what is about to happen in the immediate future, and yet action must be taken at a certain time; and, in order to be well taken, preparation must be made for it now. And that darkness, perhaps, cannot be made any less by our intellectual activities, or by our moral impatience. We may knock at the doors of the future with all our importunity, but they will not open a moment before the time. What can we do? We can pray. We can use this text, and get the benefits it carries, "Cause me to know the way wherein I should go, for I lift my soul to Thee."
2. Or the case is exceedingly perplexed and intricate. It lies all open before us. There is nothing more to reveal, and yet we cannot understand it. Our way, "the way wherein we should go," lies right through the heart of those perplexed and ravelled things, and our "going" is sure to alter them somewhat, perhaps much. What shall be the ruling principle of our action? Shall we go quickly or slowly? And shall prudence or firmness have the reins? Who can tell us? And in this pause what can we do? We can ask Him who knows the way that is all unknown to us to "cause us to know it," so that, as we tread it step by step, and make it thus our actual way, it may prove to be indeed the way of righteousness and peace.
3. Or the case, in its two sides, is perfectly balanced. There is nothing to choose between them. We may cast the weight of our action on this side or on that with equally good conscience. And yet, out of the choice we make, a very different class of results will spring; and other things will come in then, and issues never contemplated as possible will arise. So that there is a right side, a "way in which we should go," even when no human wisdom could give any sufficient reason why the one side should be taken rather than the other: How shall we find it? How, but by coming to Him who knows all ways that human feet are to tread. He has His eye on that best way, that perfect way, that Christlike way, which my feet ought to mark, and if I come to Him to ask about it, it may be that, while I am yet speaking, the light of revelation will illumine it, the finger of Providence will point to it, and the voice that has directed so many pilgrims will say to me also, "This is the way, walk ye in it."
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
I. "THE WAY THAT I SHALL WALK IN." David was thinking, no doubt, of some path across the mountains of Gilead, by which he might hope to make good his escape in that hour of danger. But that was not all. David would be thinking also of other "ways." For the soul of man is perpetually moving, in whatever direction, through the wilds of moral and intellectual space: and the various directions which its thought, feeling, and action take, are variously characterized in Scripture. On the one hand we read of "the way of understanding, the way of righteousness, the way of truth," "the way of God's testimonies," "the way of wisdom," "the way of life," "the way of good men," "the way everlasting," "the right way," "the way of the Lord," "the way of peace"; and on the other we are told of "the way of the froward," "the way of evil men, the way of man's heart," "the way that is not good," "the way that seemeth right unto a man, while the end thereof are the ways of death." And so particular types of human life, "the way of David," "the way of Asa," "the way of Jehoshaphat," contrast with "the way of Cain," "the way of Jeroboam," "the way of the house of Ahab," "the way of Manasseh." And thus the expression comes to mean a certain moral and mental temper, or a body, or System of doctrines, or precepts, whether false or true, which claim to be, and are treated as forming the path to a higher or to a lower world. Above all, we must not forget that the spiritual sense of this expression has received a consecration which can never for long be absent from Christian thought. We know who has said, "I am the Way."
II. THIS PETITION FOR GUIDANCE, LIKE ALL SERIOUS PRAYER, IMPLIES A FAITH, a faith which at once dictates and shapes it. The lex credendi is also the lex supplicandi. Two truths, at least, prompt and govern the prayer.
1. The first is, that one path enables each man to correspond with the true ideal of his life. "The way that I should walk in." One path only is perfectly loyal to the highest truth that has been placed within each man's reach. Only one path, and not many, enables each man to make the most of his faculties and of his opportunities, to develop most harmoniously his intelligence, his affections, his will, his character; to satisfy most adequately the just claims that others may make on him; to satisfy the demands of Him to whom the gift of existence itself is due.
2. And the second implied and governing truth is this — that there is one Being, at any rate, who sees and can tell each one of us what this his path should be. A clear sight of the track along which each of His responsible creatures should walk with the view of making the best of the gift of life, is the least that can be ascribed to an Intelligence that knows no bounds, and to a Will by whose good pleasure we each and all exist. A willingness to show each one of us what He thus sees to be the best for each may be reverently taken for granted in Him who is not only and chiefly Power and Intelligence, but also, and especially Goodness.
III. HOW DOES GOD ANSWER THIS PRAYER?
1. First of all, and generally by the language of events, by that importunity of circumstances which, in different degrees, accompanies every human life. It matters not that the environment of every life can be traced to antecedents, and these to other antecedents that have preceded them till the long evolutionary process is lost sight of in the distant haze. It matters not because, first, we know that a point must at last be reached where no material antecedent is discoverable, and where bare existence can only be accounted for by the fiat of a Creative Will; and secondly, because the relation of each antecedent to that which precedes and follows it, the direction and law of this long evolutionary sequence — if so we must provisionally term it — itself implies, no less than its first impact implies, a presiding and guiding Mind.
2. But independently of that which belongs to single lives, there are certain broad characteristics of the pathway which God has traced for the soul of man. Man's will, as well as his understanding, needs the guidance of truth. Man's character needs the discipline of sacrifice. And He who said, "He that followeth Me walketh not in darkness," said also, "Let a man take up his cross and follow Me." What then are the characteristics of this truth which can furnish true guidance to the soul of man, and which thus is the answer to the prayer of the psalmist?(1) It will first of all be positive, and not merely negative truth. The psalmist prays God to show him, not the way in which he should not walk, but the way. in which he should.(2) Again, the truth which is to serve as the pathway to the human soul must be definite. The road that will bring us home at last must be plain to the eye, and firm beneath the feet. It must not lose itself in a forest; it must not sink away into a morass. The psalmist prays for guidance; and indefinite guidance is all but a contradiction in terms.(3) Once more, the truth which will conduct the soul heavenward must be truth which the soul knows to be independent of itself. "Show Thou me the way I should walk in." The truth that will support our steps is true, whatever we may think or feel about it. It has, in modern phrase, an objective existence.(4) Yet, once again, the truth that is to form a pathway for the human soul will be in its import specially practical; "The way that I should walk in" suggests practice rather than speculation. Christian truth is nothing if it be not practical. God's Word is a lantern unto the feet, and a light unto the path; Scripture is profitable for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, as well as for doctrine; Jesus Christ came to purify to Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. Surely a Christian should not read his Bible or repeat his creed without asking himself the question, What does this statement say to me, what does it suggest, what does it command, what does it reprove in me? How can it contribute to lighten my path through time towards eternity? What dangers does it unveil, what encouragements does it proclaim, what obstacles does it remove, what efforts does it warrant? This practical instinct is always energetic in a seriously believing Christian, it is an inseparable corollary of the prayer, "Show Thou me the way I should walk in; for I lift up my soul unto Thee."
(Canon Liddon.): — There is no need more imperatively felt by the Christian than that of Divine guidance.
1. We must admit that God has an ideal or plan for each one of us in life. We also know how weak and unwise we are, and that light is needed outside of ourselves. Now we know that the Bible is a historic revelation. What was written aforetime was given for our learning. So by looking back over the history of the Church we are helped in the discovery of God's will.
2. Three special methods were used in ancient times to reveal the will of God. Dreams, the Urim and Thummim, and prophetic teaching.(1) The dream then, as now, was often incoherent, uncertain and misleading, but we have every reason to believe that God did, at times, send with a dream a firm conviction that it should be acted upon.(2) Again, the mysterious oracle was a method of guidance. The Urim and Thummim was used by David, but after his day it ceased. It gave the yes or no to the inquirer.(3) As the priestly office waned, the third method, the prophetic, came into prominence. The prophet did not necessarily predict, but "uttered forth" truth as to the past and present, as well as future.
3. The important thing is not the agency through which God reveals His will, but the fact that in some way He will lead them who trust in Him. Therefore the psalmist says, "Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk, for I lift up my soul unto Thee." The lesson is one of faith in God's guiding hand. This mode of Divine direction is wholly unlike the method seen among heathen and superstitious people. It is spiritual, exalted and progressive. A moral discipline is needed, a heart in sympathy with God. The spirit of truth guides us into all truth. If we are willing to do the will of God we shall know the way.
4. The spirit of prayerfulness should be cultivated. It is on the knees that we learn the lesson of trust. It is there we are brought face to face with God. Let us, therefore, always lift our soul unto God, and, above all, seek the aid of His Holy Spirit. The example of Christ is a guide; the advice of His true disciples is helpful; our own common sense is to be used, but above all, the direction of the Holy Spirit is to be sought and followed. He will keep us from perverting the truth we hear to our own ruin.
5. Finally, if after honestly following what light you have, the issue is not what you supposed or wished, rest patiently in God till He clears the darkness. If you have erred, make it sure "that He has forgiven, and then cheerfully go forward, saying, "My times are in Thy hand," knowing that all things are working together for good to them that love God and are sincerely doing His will.
(A. Foster, D. D.)
Christian Endeavour Times.The relation resulting from the intercourse of an Alpine traveller with his guide, writes Dr. Parkhurst, is not exactly like anything else. The one whom you had employed in this service would henceforth stand to you quite apart from other men. The peculiar quality that is in your intimacy has not resulted merely from your walking so long together; nor has it come because of your fellowship with one another in peril, or perhaps even in suffering. You learn to know your guide by obeying him, and you learn to love him by committing yourself to him and trusting him. Something about our Divine Guide, Jesus Christ, you can learn from the Scriptures; something, too, you can gather from the testimony of other men. But if you want to know Him you have got to obey Him, and if you want to love Him you must first trust Him.
(Christian Endeavour Times.)
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