"Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy." (Psalm 107:2)
I had not anticipated this subject this afternoon; in fact, since the close of this morning's service I have in my inner feelings been, as we speak, at the ends of the earth. I felt much disappointment on account, in my feelings, of a failure in speaking this morning and have been driven here and there, wondering and questioning what I should do for this afternoon. But it may be, and the Lord knows, that there is a purpose for good even in one's feeling of humiliation. We have to learn thereby our utter dependence upon Him; and a sense of shame, at times, is not the worst thing for us if it has the effect of humbling us before God and bringing us in a certain sense into the place described of the Lord's people in this Psalm when "they fell down, and there was none to help." Dependence is mortifying to our proud nature, but dependence upon God to a believer is at times sweet, because he realizes there is no ground for despair on account of his own poverty, but He may apply himself continually and freely to that Fountain of all grace who can respond to and answer every need. Therefore in some of these inner things (and I pass through many things not known to you, my hearers and my people too) if in these inner exercises that I pass through (and that you pass through for you pass through things I do not know) we have grace really to observe these things I feel persuaded that we shall understand and perceive much of the lovingkindness of our God in them.
So I have been thinking again of this Psalm and have been trying to reap another fragment from it; and in reviewing it again there were three particular features in it which have impressed my mind. Firstly with regard to these redeemed ones we can say they had a good beginning. Why so? Because the Lord gathered them. They were not a people who made up their minds to be religious for certain purposes that might be advantageous to themselves, but they were dealt with by the merciful hand of God when they were lost and ruined in the fall of Adam, and would have been everlastingly lost but for His quickening grace. I like that word because it is expressive; He "gathered them out of the lands, from the East, and from the West, from the North, and from the South." (Ps. 107:3) So the Lord began with them, and if your religion is of God He began it with you! All real religion begins in God's coming to poor people in their helpless, ruined state. Whatever outward circumstances He may use, the new birth is divine, that is to say, it is from God. And furthermore, providentially we see how the Lord gathers His people from all parts of the world; doubtless He has them in the most unthought-of-places. He gathers them "out of the lands, from the East and from the West, from the North and from the South," and we believe He has gathered some who are here at this present time. It is a wonderful mercy to have real religion. It is an amazing thing that, though the matters of eternity are of paramount importance, they are of the least concern to the majority of people, who pay but little heed to them, having much care and thought for material things for their bodies, but little care for their souls. Let us give good heed to the Word of Christ, "What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" What would the world be to us if we were lost eternity? It is safe to say that on a dying bed nothing but that precious provision of the gospel can give abiding and lasting comfort.
Secondly, these people who were thus gathered were brought forth in a right, though a trying and difficult, way. The Lord never designed that it should be otherwise with His people; they have to be pilgrims, often struggling against the wind and tide, facing much opposition within, and sometimes without too, contending with crosshanded providences that weigh them down and press their minds and spirits, whereby the great adversary of souls will assail them and try to make them infidels if he could. But still, notwithstanding the vicissitudes of life and the changes through which these people pass, the Lord leads them forth by the right way. They are taken out of the wrong way and put into the right way and if the Lord had a hand in the beginning He will keep it up; He will never take up the case of a sinner and then drop it.
"Whom once He loves He never leaves
But loves him to the end."
"He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." (Phil. 1:6)
But O what changes they had, what trials they suffered, what sins they committed, and what extremities they were driven to, sometimes reeling to and fro and staggering like a drunken man, sometimes at their wits' end. You may have been, and in all probability all the Lord's people are at times, at the end of their tether, as we say, and know not what to do; but it is then that the Lord appears. Several times it is reiterated in this Psalm that when they cried unto the Lord in their trouble He heard and saved them out of their distresses. Let us observe these things. It would seem, therefore, that the Lord's purpose in laying these trials upon His people is to bring them to this point and place, because evidently they did not cry before, but when "He brought down their heart with labor;" when "they fell down and there was none to help," when they went "down to the sea in ships" doing "business in great waters" then they saw His wonders. Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and He was just the same every time. That is a mercy, is it not? It does not say, in the first instance they cried unto Him and He delivered them out of their distresses, and the second time decided to do it once more, and the third time would have no more patience with them. Where would you and I be if such were the case with us? Continued lovingkindness and exhaustless patience are needed with such creatures as we, for we are continually turning aside from Him. O what fools we are! "Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted." They went away from Him, yet He would not leave them, but would bring them back again. He dealt with them in chastening, brought them down, and they cried unto Him and He forgave them again, pardoned them again, delivered them again. Frequent deliverances! "Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivereth him out of them all." (Ps. 34:19) "O that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!" (Ps. 107:8)
There is another point here, and that is thirdly, He brought them ultimately to their desired haven. They did not perish in the storm, did not go to the bottom of the sea in the tempest; though often doubtless you may fear you will ultimately, you never can if Jesus is the Pilot, for He goes before; all the storms are at His command. "He bringeth them to their desired haven." (Ps. 107:30) He brings these poor people there. Then it can be said that all their sorrows and cries will be turned into praises and their song, yea, their everlasting Alleluia, will be unto Him Who loved them and washed them from their sins in His own blood and hath made them kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory (and to no one else) world without end. "So He bringeth them unto their desired haven." So He began with them; He gathered them, He brought them on by a right way, and kept them in it, and ultimately brought them to the desired haven. O what a mercy to be in the hand of God thus. Let us then by His grace seek that wisdom whereby we may observe these things and understand the lovingkindness of the Lord. Doubtless there is much lovingkindness in the bitter things, that is, in the things that are bitter to us. But O, some of you would have turned things about if you could; you would have altered things; you would have straightened this or that crooked circumstance. How differently you would have had things if you could; but still the Lord is good, and He makes crooked things straight and rough places plain. Let us give thanks unto Him. Who are the people that could unite in this song? The redeemed of the Lord. Let them say so, let them sing the song. "The righteous shall see it and rejoice: and all iniquity shall stop her mouth." (Ps. 107:42) That seems to reveal to us the twofold fact that ultimately the righteous shall open their mouths in praise, and shall joy and rejoice in God's mercy in salvation; but all iniquity shall stop her mouth, shall be dumb with silence before this great God and His ways.
"Let the redeemed of the Lord say so." This word redemption means, as we understand it, to buy again by paying a ransom price, or to deliver from some state and condition of slavery and bondage and servitude. The word is put before us in the Scripture in a typical way by the redemption of Israel from the land of Egypt. Truly that redemption was by the power of God alone by the hand of Moses His servant, who as the leader of His people in bringing them forth from their Egyptian captivity may be a type of Christ; also in respect of the slaying of the paschal lamb whereby the price of redemption is foreshadowed. It was God's ordinance and command that the lamb should be slain and should be eaten, and the blood sprinkled upon the lintel and two side posts of the houses. Thus the Lord redeemed His people from their bondage, brought them out with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm. But that is only a type, a figure, and though an evidence of one of the many wonderful works of God to His people, falls into insignificance in comparison with the redemption by Christ of all His spiritual seed from eternal death, from the curse of a broken law and everlasting punishment, all of which they deserved on account of their manifold transgressions and breaches of God's righteous law. Yet He redeemed them. He redeemed His ancient people and delivered them; He brought them out, He led them through, and ultimately brought them into the promised land. Although this Psalm does not seem to apply to the children of Israel in respect to their deliverance from Egypt and wilderness wanderings as God's national people, so much as to His spiritual people, who are gathered in, not from a literal Egypt but from all parts North and South, East and West; yet He redeemed Israel and thereby foreshadowed that great and glorious redemption whereby the chosen seed, chosen from before the foundation of the world, were redeemed by the blood of Christ.
Let me look for a few brief moments at this redemption. First, in respect of the cause and reason of it. Where can we find this? In ourselves? The cause of it was never in us; the end of it is in us, because of our transgressions and sins. No hope could there ever be for us of deliverance, life, pardon, justification and heaven, apart from God Himself; but the end is in us. I feel persuaded of this great point that every object of this redemption will, in the Lord's dealing with him feel that end; will be pained by his own sin and guilt and yet will receive that forgiveness that flows from the wounds and merits of our blessed Emmanuel. O yes, but the cause of this is in God. It is in Himself, and it was there from everlasting, it flows from His free, eternal, everlasting love. It knows no other source, it can come no other way. The design and plan was in the decree and council of Jehovah before the world was. This is that "river, the streams whereof shall make glad the City of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High." (Ps. 46:4) It is amazing, is it not, to us sometimes that the Majesty of heaven should have looked with complacency in eternity upon poor sinful, guilty, ruined men, upon such insignificant mortals as we, and given us a place in the blessed Person of Christ in the decree of electing love. O friends, if that were so really, and if we are the objects of that love that was in the heart of God from everlasting toward His people, we shall surely need an eternity to praise Him for it, for it will indite in our hearts a song that we shall never tire of in eternity. But here we see the cause of this great and grand design and the plan of it in the council of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each of the divine Persons in the Trinity has His part; and yet the work in respect of the design and fulfillment and the blessed effects of it are all in one blessed God, one God in three Persons, Father, Son and Spirit. As we have it revealed to us in the Scripture, we may believe that the part of the Father in this great transaction, was to elect and appoint His own Son to be the suffering Surety of His people. "Behold My Servant whom I uphold, Mine Elect in whom My soul delighteth." (Isa. 42:1) The Lord Jesus Christ was appointed in the decrees of the Father to be His Servant. He was ever a Son; but in the council of peace, in the covenant engagement essential to the salvation of the Church, He became a Servant. He did undertake to honorably and faithfully fulfill the will of God; He espoused the cause of His people. All this was committed into His hand by the eternal Father, and the part of the blessed Son of God, in love to man's lost race, was to condescend, in the fullness of time, to come down to this earth, as we speak in our language, though He was still in heaven in respect of His divine Person--to appear on this earth in human nature, to suffer and die, and pay the ransom price of man's redemption. This was the part of the Son. Moreover, it did not end there with His groans and death upon Calvary's cross, but He rose again and ascended into heaven as the Representative of all the redeemed of the Lord. O, I bless God for such a truth as that. I need a living Priest and I feel sure I have one in heaven; at least I know I am lost without one; that much I can avouch. But I have felt the strength of that word which Christ said to His disciples, "Because I live, ye shall live also." (John 14:19) O blessed Christ, His life is our life. Then again we have the revelation to us by the Holy Ghost of the cause of this great and grand work of redemption. That appears to be His part in that profound and glorious mystery. He takes of the things of Jesus and shows them unto poor people. (John 16:14,15) O what a sight it is! How it softens the heart; what worship it produces, how it makes you love Him, admire and adore Him. One hymnwriter got a little of that view when he said,
"I'd creep beside Him as a worm
And see Him bleed for me."
Now the Holy Spirit takes of these glorious mysteries and reveals them to faith. You say, I cannot understand them. No, that is perfectly true; I cannot understand them, but if the Holy Ghost reveals them to your faith you will receive them and love them and rejoice in them. O it is wonderful for a poor sinner to have an experience of the gospel in his heart. Yes!
"None but Jesus, none but Jesus,
Can do helpless sinners good."
Here then, we see the grand design and plan set in the eternal purposes and all fulfilled according to the will of God. But think of the ransom price that had to be paid for our redemption. What was that price? It was the heart's blood of the Saviour; nothing less would do. It was the price that had to be paid to deliver His spiritual Israel from the hands of the enemy, from that cruel, inveterate foe who held them in his power in their unregeneracy, who held us and would have held us now, had not the Lord mercifully delivered us from his hand--if He has done so--and we believe He has. But the ransom price the Saviour paid was paid to Justice, not to the devil; nothing had to be paid to Satan. The Lord's people are delivered from Satan's power but no compensation is there paid. The payment of the mighty debt was made into the hand of Justice who held us as prisoners under a broken law and an impending curse; and O, what a price, what a price it was! I feel that the Apostle Paul brings this point to light where writing to the Corinthians he says, "He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Cor. 5:21) Why, my friends, that is the gospel in two sentences--Christ made sin, and sinners made righteous by His obedience and blood-shedding, standing in their guilty place, suffering the curse they deserved, yea, enduring their hell that they might have His heaven. O what a price it was! Peter brings the same point to light, "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold...but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot." (1 Pet. 1:18,19) This is it! my friends, my spiritual hearers, this is it which nourishes faith, relieves in distress, gives birth to hope, inspires confidence, produces holy comfort, repentance, godly sorrow, faith and love. You get a sight of a bleeding Jesus and weep at His cross for a few moments; then it may be said you have a religion, a religion that will carry you to heaven ultimately. O yes! He paid the price great though it was. Here we have something that is beyond our conception. Yes, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." (Isa. 53:6) O to see that wonderful exchange; the imputation of our sins to Christ and the imputation of His righteousness unto us. This is the gospel! "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so." Have you any hope in your heart that this mercy has come? "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so." Have you ground by past experience, by present feeling, in any measure to hope, to believe, that the price was paid to ransom your soul from the curse? Then say so! "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so whom He hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy." The Psalmist here would say "If the Lord has done anything for you surely it is worth mentioning; why keep silence?" "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so." Speak of it. "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His Name." O how condescending was this!
But who are the objects of this redemption of Christ's? Why, poor sinners, poor sensible, needy sinners, the elect of God from all eternity; and none beside these elect ones are brought into the evidence of that election by the Spirit dealing with them in their personal cases, in their experience, in bringing them down, lifting them up, bringing them into trouble, bringing them out of it, into bondage, setting them free, bringing them to the Throne of Grace and opening their hearts in prayer, giving them to see deliverances, and enabling them to praise God for His goodness. "O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, for His mercy endureth for ever." "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so;" let them speak of the goodness of God, for they can. "Those whom He hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy." But O, some of you may say, "Yes, that is very well for those who feel certain, who have had some deliverance, who can look back upon certain things with some measure of composure and can believe that the Lord has done this, and that, and has blessed them there." Yes, it is; but you know even those people do not always feel able to speak; in fact for the most part it is very difficult. The Lord's people, it is true, vary much with respect to speaking of His dealings with them, but when the heart and lip is open and there is a little enlargement felt, and the goodness of the gospel flows out, then how acceptable it is! There seems to be no restriction here, does there?
"Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy." But you say, "I am not like that. I feel to be in such darkness, bondage, fear, doubt and uncertainty; everything is clouded over with me, I see not my signs." Well, poor sinner, if that is your case, what can you do? Ask God to clear the clouds away, and if you have never had an evidence of His goodness in your felt sinful state, then wait on Him for it. Remember this word, "They shall not be ashamed that wait for Me." He is a good God to bad sinners. And it is sweet when there is a little light thrown upon the path, a little blessing felt in the heart, and a little sense of the goodness of God overcoming our reserve and constraining us to break out in praise to His Name for His mercy. O I wish many could! O how good it would be if the Lord were to bless His people up and down the land with a reviving, and to give them fresh things, give them such things as that they might delight to talk together of His goodness! We are living in dark days, but the truth remains, the gospel remains, let us be thankful for that. And if we feel dark, and distant, and cold, and weary, as these are here described, wandering in the wilderness in a solitary way, hungry and thirsty, our souls fainting within us; if we feel like that, then let us cry unto the Lord in our distress, for we have this word, "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles." He will deliver you. He is a faithful God, for He has delivered, He does deliver, and you can trust Him, that He will yet deliver.
"Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that He will yet deliver us;"
"Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy."