"Save Thy people, and bless Thine inheritance: feed them also, and lift them up for ever." (Psalm 28:9)
This is a blessing pronounced by the Psalmist, I take it, upon the whole church of God; for he says, "Save Thy people." True it is that the people of God need a daily salvation; they need to be saved from the power of sin and Satan. So, when the Lord Jesus Christ was heralded into this world, it was said that His Name should be called Jesus, for He should save His people from their sins. (Matt. 1:21) Jesus is a mighty Saviour. In Him the people of God have indeed a Friend as well as a Saviour; but He saves them. He came into this world to save sinners. That was His great object in coming down to this world and taking a human birth, that He might save poor, lost, ruined and undone sinners. He tells us, He did not come to save the righteous, but He came to save sinners; as much as to say that everyone who is a recipient of this blessing will know their sinnership. That is one of the all-important things, for a person rightly to know himself, for the heart to disclose its disorders, for the Spirit of God to convince of sin.
"Then lead to Jesus' blood;
And to our wondering view reveal
The secret love of God."
Well, the Lord Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost; and if you truly know what it is to be a lost sinner, you will welcome such a Saviour; and if you are brought to know your nakedness, your poverty, your far-off condition, how thankful you will be that there is One that can save His people, that can save even to the uttermost those that come unto God by Him. He reaches out the arm of His omnipotent grace to save poor sinners from the border of the pit; from the very brink of hell He has saved many a sinner, and has snatched him as a brand from the burning.
The Lord saves poor sinners. That is the mercy of it. It is not a half of salvation; He does not say, "You must do your part, and then I will do Mine." He does not say that at all, but He simply saves. Whatever is necessary He will give, for He has laid down His life that He might take it again. He said, "No man taketh it from Me; I lay it down of Myself: I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." (John 10:18) But why did He lay down His life? Was there no other way of saving sinners? I trow not. I believe that Christ's coming into this world and making Himself a propitiation for sins, was God's method of rescuing poor sinners out of corruption's pit and from the very belly of hell. He saves them even to the uttermost.
"Save Thy people." And so it is when it comes to trials of various kinds. God's people were never promised an easy path to heaven; but the path to heaven for the most part is a rough and rugged road. The poet says, "'Tis the right way, though dark and rough;" and though it may be a very dark and rough way, the Lord will save His people in the time of trial and need and distress. O, how many times the Lord has put forth His omnipotent arm, not only, as you hope, to save you from your sins, but to save you from despair and from your fears, for
"Our fears sometimes say, we never shall find,
In death's awful day, true peace to our mind."
But "This answers all questions, The Lord will provide." So the Lord saves His people sometimes from their fears. He gives them some comfortable hope, or He speaks some promise to their heart, or He gives them some secret assurance, some prop, to maintain their faith. What a good thing if the Lord has shown you His salvation, if He has saved you, perhaps from your delusions; or it may be He has saved you in the hour of strong temptation. O, the Lord knows how to succor His people in their needy condition.
"Save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance." O, the Lord can bless. It was a custom in Eastern countries to pronounce a blessing; as in the case of Jacob and Esau. How anxious Esau was for the blessing that had already been pronounced upon Jacob! It was a very urgent matter to obtain a blessing from the parent. And so it is an urgent case with the children of God; they want a blessing; they want the Lord to pronounce a blessing upon them; not merely to do them good literally, as a God of providence, in the supply of their need, though that may indeed be a blessing in itself; but the people of God require sometimes like good Jabez desired when he said, "O that Thou wouldest bless me indeed!"--"Bless me in giving me some token for good; bless me in speaking peace to my troubled heart and conscience; bless me in supporting and strengthening me in the hour of trial; and bless me with communion and fellowship with the Three-in-One Jehovah, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." We do need the blessing of His grace. That was what Paul needed when he was buffeted of the devil and had the thorn in the flesh. He prayed that it might be removed, but instead of removing it the Lord gave him a blessing, and that blessing was couched in those words, "My grace is sufficient for thee; for My strength is made perfect in weakness." The Lord blesses according to the need; and if you are in a deep need, very often the Lord gives a greater blessing. He does not throw His blessings about promiscuously. I believe the Lord gives a blessing according to the state and condition that we are in, according to our need. "My God shall supply all your need, according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
Then the Lord blesses in revealing Himself, making Himself to you "the chiefest among ten thousand," and the "altogether lovely." O, what a blessing it is when a soul is led to contemplate the wonders of God's love in the gift of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ! If we are hard and callous and indifferent, then how can we expect the Lord to give us this blessing? But if we are softened, if we are humbled under His mighty hand, the promise is, "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My word." (Isa. 66:2)
"Christ has blessings to impart,
Grace to save thee from thy fears.
O the love that fills His heart!
Sinner, wipe away thy tears.
"Why art thou afraid to come,
Why afraid to tell thy case?
He will not pronounce thy doom;
Smiles are seated on His face."
The Lord blessed even little children in the day of His sojourning upon earth. The disciples would have kept them away, but He said, "Suffer the little children to come unto Me...for of such is the kingdom of heaven." How thankful those children were to receive a blessing from Him who is King of kings and Lord of lords!
If the Lord intends to give you a blessing, the probability is that He will prepare you for it. That is, He may put you into the crucible; He may remove some of your dross. Like the refiner who sits at the furnace watching the silver being refined, and when he can see his own image in the molten mass he knows that the work is done, so when the Lord intends to bless souls He often reduces them and makes them to feel their own nothingness. Perhaps He takes away from them their props and removes from them the things that have wrapped themselves round their heart or affections; but the Lord has said, "The preparation of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord." (Prov. 16:1) So if the Lord intends to bless you during this year that we have entered upon, He may bring you into the furnace, He may bring you into trials of various kinds; but that will not hinder the blessing. If the Lord intends good to you, He may strip you of all that which is worthless and of no value, that you may prize the blessing when you get it. If you are full of this world's goods, if you have everything that heart can wish, what will the blessing be to you? But if the Lord has in some way or other put a cross upon these things, that will make a way for you to be blessed indeed. "Bless Thine inheritance."
"Feed them also." So they require to be fed. And what are they fed upon? If you read that 6th chapter of John will find that the Lord Jesus Christ uttered a blessed discourse upon the bread of eternal life. He shows He is that bread of life, "that bread that cometh down from heaven, and giveth life upon the world." Now that is the bread they are to be fed upon; a revealed Christ, Christ made known by the power of the Holy Ghost. That is the food for these quickened souls. It is not to feed on self or self-importance; but it is to feed upon a precious Christ, and to know that His flesh is meat indeed and His blood is drink indeed. "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you," (John 6:53) was the word He spoke, meaning that faith must be active upon the Person, the flesh, of Christ, as coming into the world for the purpose of saving poor sinners by the offering up of Himself; and the blood which He shed, faith must from time to time look toward that precious fountain; and, as dear Cowper says,
"There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel's veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains."
That is what these people have to feed upon. They do not feed upon their graces, but they feed upon the truth that centers in the worthy Lamb of God. This is their spiritual meat and their spiritual drink. "They all drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ," (1 Cor. 10:4) Paul say, speaking of ancient Israel; and that was their life. So it is with a child of God; he drinks of that spiritual Rock. The Rock that followed them was Christ, and so these people feed upon His precious flesh and blood, and it becomes their spiritual life. O, how sweet it is when the Spirit of truth comes down and makes known the things of God, and makes to us salvation known, and witnesses with the blood, in our hearts! There is no sweeter experience under heaven than to feed upon the Person of this dear Redeemer, the Friend of sinners, in His doing and in His dying.
So we are taught and led by the Spirit to feed upon Him as our spiritual meat and our spiritual drink. "Feed them also, with the hidden manna, and lift upon them the light of Thy countenance." This will lift them above the vain things of this poor world, if the Spirit of God but make known the things concerning the Person and work of Christ; it will lift them up above their troubles. I know troubles are troubles, and that we are not to think too lightly of them, we are not to try to brush them aside; but we shall need something to sustain us on the road, and that is God's sustaining grace. It was what Moses wanted, when he pleaded with the Lord relative to Israel, who had fallen so foully into idolatry and had made the golden calf. The Lord remonstrated with Moses, and said that He would not go up with the children of Israel, but He was willing to send an angel. O, but that would not satisfy Moses. He wanted something more than a created angel to go with him, and therefore he said, "If Thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence; for wherein shall it be known that we are Thy people? Is it not in that Thou goest with us?" And so effectual was Moses' pleading that the Lord answered him and said, "My presence shall go with thee; and I will give thee rest." So, my hearers, if we are amongst the people of God we shall want the Lord to lift up the light of His countenance upon us, to lift us up, to make known His gracious presence, that presence which will enlighten, enliven the soul, and separate from the vain things of this poor, perishing world. If we knew more of the Lord's presence, we should not have much room for the world in our hearts, we should seek solitude, we should be like the nightingale that pours out its solitary lays, "nor asks a witness for her song; nor thirsts for human praise." If the Lord would but lift upon us the light of His countenance, then we should be separated from those things that have occupied our minds and our affections, perhaps unduly. I know, whilst we are in the world we have to do with the world, but there are times when we can bid the world adieu for a little season whilst we enter into a little communion and fellowship with a Three-in-One Jehovah, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
We need the Lord, then, to lift us up above our carnality, to lift us up out of our apathy, and to lift us up out of corruption's pit. One of our hymns says,
"Sinners in corruption's pit
Know they greatly need Him;"
and we do need Him, sometimes, when we are in Job's ditch. You know, Job spoke of being plunged into the ditch so that his own clothes abhorred him; and I do believe there are times when the people of God not only get into the Slough of Despond, but they get mired with the things of this poor world, so that they need for the Lord to come and give them a dead lift, to lift them up out of carnality and death, and to lift upon them the light of His countenance.
But the Psalmist wants this to be for ever; and is not that what you desire sometimes, for the Lord to give you such a lift that will give you a sweet and blessed assurance that heaven is your eternal home?
"We've no abiding city here.
This may distress the worldling's mind;
But should not cost the saint a tear
Who hopes a better rest to find."
We are often seeking to make our nest here; and so we should, if the Lord did not sometimes knock the bottom out of things, so that we find there is no rest in anything short of Himself. That is the believer's rest; to rest in the Lord, to wait patiently for Him, to commit your way unto the Lord, to trust also in Him; and He will bring it to pass.
Well, if the Lord gives us a good lift we shall be like the Psalmist in the place where he says, "He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God." (Ps. 40:2,3) The Lord can, and does, lift up His people up out of the mire and the mud, and out of those fears and distresses which are a part of our inheritance as we travel the pathway of tribulation.
"Lift them up for ever." Like good Asaph: "When heart and flesh fail," he says, "God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever." O, we do not want a religion just to rub along with during the time we are living in this world; we want a religion that will take us right into eternity; to be able to say with the poet,
"There I shall see His face,
And never, never sin,
And from the rivers of His grace
Drink endless pleasures in."
If the Lord lifts us up for ever, there will be a place in that New Jerusalem for us, a place in heaven. "In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:2,3) O, this is an everlasting gospel! It is an everlasting salvation; and it will mean everlasting glory by and by. When the Lord Jesus uttered that memorable prayer as recorded in the 17th chapter of John's Gospel. He petitioned these people might behold His glory, even the glory that He had with the Father before the foundation of the world; and that will be our happiness, if we reach heaven--not to see our relatives, but to behold the glory of a dear Immanuel, to see Him as He is, to behold His glory, the glory that was bestowed upon Him as being the Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus; the glory of His eternal Godhead, and the glory of His spotless humanity, the Word that "was made flesh, and dwelt among us; and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)
If we behold His glory here, there is no doubt that the time will come when we shall see Him face to face. It is almost too great for us to conceive; we cannot understand the mystery; but we believe that if we reach that place, "where He unveils His lovely face, and looks, and loves, and smiles," it will be our eternal happiness. O, what must it be to be there? Some of our friends are there. Some of our very dear friends, I believe, are basking in the sunshine of God's favor; they are amongst "the spirits of just men made perfect;" and though their bodies are in the grave, awaiting the resurrection, their spirits are around the throne of God in heaven. So, if the Lord saves us, and feeds us, and then lifts us up, and lifts up the light of His countenance upon us, He will lift us up for ever. It will not be just for this present time state, but the Lord will shine, and will also give us to know that heaven is our eternal home, that it is a prepared place for a prepared people, and that He has prepared us for that inheritance which is "incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time." (1 Pet. 1:4,5)
Well, we will leave these remarks. May the Lord add His blessing, for His Name's sake. Amen.