"He hath remembered His covenant for ever; the word which He commanded to a thousand generations." (Psalm 105:8)
This psalm was the outpouring of David's soul when he brought the ark of the covenant out of the house of Obededom to the tent which he had prepared for it. In 1 Chron. 16, we have the record that the first fifteen verses of this psalm constituted the song of praise which David uttered when he danced before the Lord; the song which he delivered unto the hands of Asaph and the Levites who accompanied it with psalteries, and harps, and cymbals. It was a psalm which exactly fitted the occasion, because it speaks from the beginning to the end of the covenant in accord with which all the movements of the Lord's people have been guided, and under which they have been and are made the recipients of His guardian care. And it is evident that the covenant must have been uppermost in David's mind; it was the ark of the covenant that was being removed from the place where the household had been so greatly blessed of God, to its prepared dwelling-place upon Mount Sion. Hence this psalm declares the sovereign grace of God ruling over every movement of the children of Israel from their first choice in the person of their father Abraham, to their coming into the land with milk and honey flowing. David says here in effect, notwithstanding all the ups and downs of the children of Israel, notwithstanding all their foes, notwithstanding all their faults, God hath remembered His covenant for ever; the word which He commanded to a thousand generations.
"The word"--that means the promise, for in the Hebrew that which in our text is translated "word" is, in the 42nd verse of this psalm, translated "promise," therefore we may substitute that word, "the promise which He commanded to a thousand generations." In other words, neither the covenant, nor the promises which are the outcome of the covenant, become obsolete through lapse of time. The covenant and the promise are not extinguished or forgotten; His covenant which He hath remembered is manifested by His own word, by His own promise which He commanded to a thousand generations; hence the covenant and the promises are vested with divine authority.
Remembrance is one of the key notes of this psalm. In the fifth verse David, by the Holy Ghost, calls upon us to remember His marvelous works that He hath done, and then in our text we are told that God remembers His covenant. Here are the people of God remembering, here is God remembering, and memory is never better employed than when it becomes the spring of praise.
What is it we are so prone to treasure up in our memories? Our wrongs, our injuries, our mortified pride. A thousand and one things we treasure up in our memories; we take them down from the shelf, we think how hardly treated we have been, how hardly treated we are, and we forget our God. The Lord enable us by His grace to put our memories to a better purpose than this. Samuel Rogers says,
"Locked in the countless chambers of the brain
Our thoughts lie linked by many a hidden chain."
Something touches the "hidden chain," thought is set in motion, and memory exercises its office. But here David says that a sanctified memory is full of praise: "Call upon His Name," "Sing unto Him," "Talk of all His wondrous works," "Glory in His holy Name," "Seek the Lord." But someone says, "I do not feel like it this morning." "Remember His marvellous works that He hath done." What hath He done for you? He hath called us, He hath kept us, He hath supplied us. How easily is character tarnished and blistered, but God has enabled us during the past year to maintain before men a good character. Is there nothing in the memory of this to call forth praise? How quickly aspersions may hang like a cloud around the character of a man! We speak of a person's reason being unhinged, of a person becoming unbalanced in mind. Why is this? Because our mental powers are poised on a most delicate balance, and in a moment we may become unbalanced. Go back and let memory cause a spring of praise to God that He has not only kept your character untarnished, but that He has preserved your reasoning power. Who is that who sought to avoid our gaze--I am supposing a case--who is that who passed by on the other side of the street? You! I! but for the grace of God. Let memory perform its office and sound to us today the note of praise. He daily loadeth us with benefits, and yet we forget!
Now let us turn to the memory of our God--God's remembrance. "He hath remembered His covenant for ever." God remembers His covenant, and God remembers His people. "He remembereth that we are dust." God remembers that word which is the transcript of His covenant, as we have it in Jeremiah 1:12. In our version it reads, "I will hasten My word to perform it," but in the Revised Version it is, "I will watch over My word to perform it." No line ever blotted out in "the covenant ordered in all things and sure;" everything in that covenant to be absolutely accomplished; the most perfect order, Divine arrangement. The counsel and the purpose of our God never deflect one hair's breadth from the line which His everlasting love and infinite wisdom had determined that it should take. Here, beloved, is solid ground on which to rest. Here is a foundation which consists not in hearsay, condition, and contingency. Here is the proclamation of our gracious God who has never made a mistake, who has never commenced to build and had to undo His own handiwork, but whose "thought moves on His undisturbed affairs."
God's covenant, upon which we will now speak, is infinitely precious unto Him. When was the first token of the covenant given? In Eden, when God clothed our fallen parents with the skins of the creatures which He had taught them to offer in sacrifice. There was the pledge of the covenant to our first parents. What was the pledge of the covenant to Noah? The rainbow with its beautiful colors spanning the bosom of the dark cloud. What was the pledge of the covenant to Moses and to the Children of Israel? The ark which David here moved from Obededom's house to the tent which he had prepared for it. What was the fullness of the covenant? God's unspeakable gift in the Person of His dear Son. But now our blessed Lord, who has been given for a covenant to the people, has gone up on high. What is the pledge of the covenant to you and to me in these our days? This Book which we have before us, containing the Scriptures of the Old Testament or covenant, and the Scriptures of the New; the one covenant of grace, in the first part of the Scriptures set forth in the old dispensation, and in the second part set forth in the new. And every promise that God gives you, every sweet assurance that He speaks to your soul, every uplifting of a precious Christ before the eyes of your faith through this Word, as blessed and ministered by the Holy Spirit, is as real a token of God's favor to you as the rainbow on which Noah looked when it rested on the bosom of the cloud from which descended the drops of rain after the flood.
Now let us come to what I conceive to be the inner meaning of our text. First of all we have the covenant declared to be the Lord's rule in all His dealings with sinners and saints in grace and in providence. Secondly, His Word our rule,--God's covenant His rule; God's Word our rule; hence we have that saying which has passed well-nigh into a proverb, "The Word of God our only rule of faith and of practice."
Now what does the covenant signify here? His covenant of salvation ministered in one form to the Israelites of old, but ministered and displayed in its fullness in the glorious gospel of the blessed God. It is called in God's Word, the covenant of salvation, the covenant of peace, the covenant which is "ordered in all things and sure." You cannot refer to any part of God's Word in which the covenant as His own blessed rule of working is not divinely displayed, and the Holy Ghost says here, "The Lord hath remembered His covenant."
Who is our God? What is our God? How does He exist? Far be it from me, a poor fallible, finite creature to attempt to dive deeply into the infinite mysteries of the self-existent God! But God's Word most clearly reveals--it is for faith to apprehend and not for reason to discuss--God's Word clearly reveals that in the undivided Godhead there exists, or subsists, a Trinity of Persons; that is, that the Lord who is spoken of here is revealed as having existed from all eternity in the Three Persons of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This follows, that the covenant of salvation which is from everlasting to everlasting must have been made between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Hence our salvation is the salvation of the Triune God, and one of the reasons, if I mistake not, why there is so much weakness in the day in which we live, is that this blessed truth is to a large extent lost sight of. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are co-equal in the great and glorious work of salvation, although God the Son, by becoming incarnate, has constituted Himself the sinner's Saviour, and draws out the heart's desires and affections of poor needy sinners towards Himself.
The covenant of salvation. God the Father remembers His covenant for ever. How are we led to work this out for the encouragement of poor sinners, for the establishment of trembling believers, for the direction that is given thereby to the seeker? This covenant in which God the Father delights, what was His part in it? The Father's electing love was fixed upon a multitude that no man can number before the foundation of the world, and the Father's divine purpose, which He ever remembers, is to people the heavens with that innumerable multitude; to people the heavens with those who shall bring, by their appearing there, an eternal revenue of glory to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; a people who are to be near unto Him; a people who should serve Him in heaven; a people who should worship Him; a people who should be nearer to the throne than the angels themselves; a people that should be brought nigh to the dazzling glory of our Three-One God. God the Father made all arrangements. God the Father settled all terms. God the Father appointed all instruments, and to use the words of the Scriptures of truth, He "predestinated" this multitude to "be conformed to the image of His Son." (Rom. 8:29) He predestinated them unto the adoption of children. (Eph. 1:5) He blesses them with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus the Lord. (Eph. 1:3) "The counsel of the Lord, that shall stand, and He will do all His pleasure." (Isa. 46:10) "He hath remembered His covenant for ever."
But then there is the terrific catastrophe of the Fall, and the introduction of sin. How do you account for that? It is not my province to attempt to account for that any more than it is to attempt to dive into the inner mysteries of the existence of my God in a Trinity of Persons. This I aver, I am a fallen sinner. I personally--and I trust I speak to those who can re-echo those words--I personally am deserving of eternal banishment from God. But why should a holy God permit the introduction of evil into the holy universe which He had made? I know not, but this I know that, in the purpose of God the Father, sin and the Fall were provided against. As John Kent once said:
"No purpose of mercy was altered thereby,
'Twas all for the lifting of Jesus on high."
And I sometimes have a kind of feeling, if I may so speak, in my own soul, my thoughts traveling and trembling onwards, that we shall see when we get beyond these shadows and enter into the city where we shall know even as we are known, we shall see that sin and the Fall have all been used for the manifestation of the glory of God, which is His great and glorious object in salvation. The Father works on remembering His covenant, His part in it, which we have attempted to describe.
Now we come to God the Son, to our Lord Jesus Christ, to the sinner's Friend! He too hath remembered His covenant. He entered into engagements with His Father to glorify His Father, to fit by His sin-atoning death this great multitude for heaven, and at the appointed time, remembering His covenant, He said, "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God; in the volume of the book it is written of Me." (Ps. 40:7) For what purpose did He come? To make common cause with poor, lost, and ruined sinners! To make Himself bone of their bone, and flesh of their flesh. Why did He come? Because of the covenant, because of the Father's love, because of His own love, because it was the will of the Lord Jesus ever to do the will of His Father which is in heaven. Behold Him, our covenant Redeemer! Oh what efficacy in the atoning work of our Lord Jesus Christ! I use the word "atonement" now to cover the whole of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ the sinner's Friend. Oh what efficacy! Can there be any other than efficacy in the work of Him who is the Son of God? Oh its completeness! Is it possible that blood so precious should be "as water spilt upon the ground that cannot be gathered up?" (2 Sam. 14:14) Precious redemption! involving the eternal security of all the blood-bought family, and the certainty that Jesus Christ shall see of "the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied." (Isa. 53:11) See Moses with the two tables of the law in his hand! See the people there! See the sacrifices! Hear God's command, "Dip the scarlet wool and the hyssop into the blood and sprinkle the book of the law and all the people." (Heb. 9:19) Oh blessed picture of Christ, of His atoning work, fulfilling both tables of the book of the law in thought and word and deed. Behold the people sprinkled with that precious blood, sanctifying, purging, cleansing, bringing nigh.
"Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power,
Till all the ransomed Church of God
Be saved to sin no more."
He who remembereth His covenant is in heaven now at the right hand of the Majesty on high, and addressing His Father He says (and the warrant for this is John 17,) "Holy Father, here is My finished work, here is My shed blood, here is My completed atonement; Holy Father, I will that all those whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am, that they may behold my glory."
Do you want to read the covenant? Do you want to see whether your own name is there in the Lamb's book of life?
"O! could we but with clearer eyes
His excellencies trace;
Could we His Person learn to prize,
We more should prize His grace."
It is the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Father is looking at the precious blood. The Son is looking at the precious blood, the token and the seal of the covenant. O, poor sinner, looking to Calvary's open fountain, looking at the precious blood, trusting alone in the finished work of Jesus Christ your Lord, you are looking where God looks; your eyes meet, the sinner and the holy God meet, and a holy God takes the sinner and folds him to His bosom on the ground of the finished work and the cleansing efficacy of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. "He hath remembered His covenant for ever."
And the covenant, too, is the Holy Spirit's rule of working. The Father's rule, the Son's rule, and the Holy Spirit's rule. No name is ever overlooked by God the Holy Ghost. Where are the names? In the Lamb's book of life. The Holy Ghost has the covenant before Him; here is the rule of His work; every one whom the Father purposed should enter heaven is every one for whom Jesus died, and every one for whom Jesus died is made a partaker of spiritual life, a partaker of the gifts and the graces of the Spirit by God the Holy Ghost. Life, repentance, desire, faith, hope, love, all these are new covenant blessings. "I will give them a new heart and a right spirit, and they shall not depart from Me. I will take away the heart of stone, and I will give them a heart of flesh." (Jer. 32:40; Ezek. 36:26) Now if you have a heart of flesh, a heart that has any desire, any feeling after God in Christ, a heart that longs for salvation, a heart that pants for God, the Holy Spirit has wrought, and is working in your heart. "He hath remembered His covenant for ever."
Now, is not this very blessedly set forth in those words in the Epistle to Titus, "But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly?" (Titus 3:4,5) What is the shedding? Oh it comes so gently! Look at the sun when it rises, and all the east is gorgeous with the early dawn. There is no sound as the dawn falls upon the earth, but the light falls silently, gently, penetratingly. You cannot describe the inward working of the Holy Ghost upon your heart, but you know, you feel that you "have passed from death unto life." (1 John 3:14; John 5:24) O poor sinner, dear child of God, trace the windings of God's long cord of love, (Hos. 11:4) and you will come ultimately to the Father's purpose, and Father, Son and Holy Ghost remember the covenant. I dare say I have quoted it before, but it will bear quoting again, the late Dr. Duncan--dear good man, friend of Kershaw's--used often to say, "Some friends I know describe very beautifully the home of the soul, the house of God's covenant purpose, but it is all house and no door. And then there are others who go to the other extreme. They speak continually of the door but do not tell us of what is inside." I have heard Mrs. Hazelton say that on one occasion a certain architect was employed to build a study for her father, Mr. Abrahams. He went on with his work exceedingly well, until one day Mr. Abrahams asked where the door was; the man had forgotten to put it in, and much of the work had to be undone. Fancy an architect building a house without a door! Now God has put before us His glorious house, a covenant salvation, and there is the most blessed, the sweetest, and most attractive of all doors, and that Door is a once crucified, but now living and reigning Saviour. It is a door that is a light. Bunyan has put it exactly where he tells us that Evangelist said to Christian, "Do you see the Wicket Gate?" "No," said Christian. "Do you see the shining light?" "Yes," replied Christian. "Follow that light, and you will come to the Wicket Gate." There is no door so suitable to a poor, lost and ruined sinner as Jesus Christ the sinner's Friend, moving to and fro, if I may so speak, on the hinges of eternal love, and presenting all divine attractions to the poor and the needy who come by the way.
Oh what a door He is! There is not a sinner who comes to Jesus' feet that shall go away without pardon. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (Rom. 8:1) There stand the accusers of a guilty woman; the accusers have brought that guilty woman into the presence of God--of God incarnate. There they stand with their fierce looks and angry faces, and speak of Mose's directions that such an one should be stoned. The woman sinks with hidden face at the feet of Incarnate love and mercy. "Let him that is without sin first cast a stone at her." (John 8:7) And they went out one by one, from the oldest to the youngest. Then the Lord lifted Himself up, and when they had all gone out, He said to the woman, "Woman, go and sin no more." She departed, saved, forgiven, blessed by Him who is the divine and wondrous door. Thank God for the completeness of the covenant. It is "ordered in all things and sure." (2 Sam. 23:5) All thy iniquities forgiven and put away; sins that are past, sins today, sins to come. But does not this make sinners careless? Never. If it is simply apprehended in the head, we are strangers to divine things; but the forgiveness of God in Christ is a strengthening and purifying grace as everything is that comes from God. Let us seek that we may apprehend more of the divine completeness of the atoning work of our Lord. Try to think what would happen if there were one sin left unpardoned and undealt with. May I put it this way? There is one who has been long in heaven, and there is a knock heard at heaven's door with impatient boldness, and the message comes, "Brother, one outside would speak with thee." Who is it? The Accuser, raking over the past life and finding one sin forgotten, one sin unforgiven. It would strike a chill through all the hearts of the redeemed in heaven; but we bless the name of our God that the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleaneth us from all sin, (1 John 1:7) and that the Accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10) can find nothing to bring against the fully accomplished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I meant next to have enlarged a little on the covenant as the rule of God's dealings in providence. The Syrian soldier drew a bow at a venture, but God pointed the arrow to its destiny.
"Peace, my tumultuous thoughts, be still:
For God performs His righteous will.
Though clouds and darkness clothe His feet,
His dwelling is the mercy-seat."
Oh what a consolation that is to the soul! What a solution that is to the soul's perplexities! Never any change in God, none whatever. "I am the Lord, I change not, therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." (Mal. 3:6) Christ by His death reconciled us to God, but God's love was ever the same--no change in Him. But where is the change in providence? The Lord is pleased to change us, that makes a great deal of difference. He is pleased sometimes to change our circumstances; He is pleased sometimes to change our place. He never changes, but according to His sovereignty He will change you; that is, in your attitude to your circumstances and to your place, and whatever He does is according to the covenant. Listen to that wail of sorrow: "Me have ye bereaved of my children; Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away; all these things are against me." (Gen. 42:36) Dear Jacob could not foresee that happy evening when the returning caravan brought back both Simeon and Benjamin, and when they returned with the news of his long-lost son Joseph. All things are ordered in this covenant, and therefore "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose." (Rom. 8:28) He remembers His word which he commanded to a thousand generations--His promise. What does it mean to "command" His promise? It means to confirm, to establish, to make potent, the word which He hath spoken. Here it occurs in Psalm 111:9: "He hath sent redemption unto Israel; He hath commanded His covenant for ever." Here it occurs again, in Psalm 133:3: "There (on Zion) the Lord commanded His blessing, even life for evermore." Every promise that comforts you, that sustains you, that strengthens you, is a commanded promise, sent forth specially. God sends forth His word, causing it to prosper in the thing whereto He sends it. Notice that in this 42nd verse it is called "His holy promise." Why? Because He has never broken it, never departed from it.
Here, then, is the rule of God's working. Here, then, is the word which displays the covenant. What is its extent? Over the whole Church in the Old Testament days! Over the whole Church in the New Testament days--the same generation after generation.
I have not been speaking to you this morning about things which are a sort of theological repository; I have been speaking to you of a banqueting house of covenant love, blood, grace, security, provision, and peace. The Lord bless His word for His Name's sake. Amen.