"I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. My meditation of Him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord." (Psalm 104:33,34)
IT is very evident that as the Psalmist was writing this wonderful Psalm, he was led to the sweet assurance mentioned in our text, which brought about his determination to bless and praise the Lord. It was the same in the chapter we read just now, Habakkuk 3., where the prophet reviewed the great works of God, talked of what God had done for His people in all ages, how marvelously He had wrought for them, and what wonderful things He had done on their behalf; till he came to the comfortable conclusion, that though all outward prosperity should fail, and everything pleasant to him as a man be cut off, yet he would rejoice in the Lord, and joy in the God of his salvation.
In noticing the text for a little while this evening, we shall do so in the following way:--
First, this sacred claim--My God.
Secondly, Meditation--"My meditation of Him shall be sweet."
Thirdly, Gladness--"I will be glad in the Lord."
Lastly, His great determination to praise the Lord--"I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being." And if the Lord the Spirit should lead us in the same way as He led His servant David, we shall be brought to the same comfortable conclusion and determination.
I do not suppose the Psalmist meant that he did nothing but sing and praise God, because he had many things to attend to apart from that; but I apprehend his meaning was, that seeing God was so great and mighty, and had been so good to him, that he would never sing praise to another God; that whenever he had an opportunity, whenever his heart was in tune, he would praise the God of his salvation, and give Him all the glory. So we read in the Scripture, "Rejoice in the Lord alway." In the Lord as having an interest in Him, and being in union with Him, and not to rejoice in anything else; but to rejoice in the Lord alway. And the man of God said, "Again I say rejoice." O! Christian, what a source of joy we have in the Lord.
First we have to notice this sacred claim. The Psalmist said, "I will sing praise to my God while I have my being." What an acknowledgment, as well as determination, we find here. This great God of whom he had been writing, who had done such wonderful things for His Church and people, this same God was his own God. We ask ourselves the question, not in a general way, but specially and individually. Can we say, He is my God? I do not know if you have been tried about this, but every Christian is. I cannot say if you have been exercised about this important matter, but every believer is at times; and if there has been no exercise of mind about it, we may consider we are not manifestly God's people yet. Our moral behavior, our moral goodness, cannot give us such a claim as this, for it is God's own work from beginning to end, and His people are brought to feel it so--
"When I can say my God is mine,
When I can feel Thy glory shine,
I tread the world beneath my feet,
And all that earth calls good and great."
Let us find some Scriptural testimony and evidences for ourselves, whether we possess this claim that God is ours.
We come to the Bible, which is full of them, because the people of God are anxious to know for themselves, and they shall know it; they shall all be brought to the enjoyment of it, however they may be tried about it now. What did the man of God say about it in his day--John, that loving, humble disciple of the Lord, who wrote much about this? He said, 1 John 4:15, "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God." What is it to confess that Jesus is the Son of God? Is it merely to say it, or to believe it, just as we believe any other thing? There must be something more than that. James 2:19, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." And yet they shall never claim this God as their covenant God. To confess that Jesus is the Christ, is to have an understanding and knowledge of His divinity: of the glory of His person; of the greatness of His works; to believe all that is said of Him in the Bible; and then confess Him and bless God for it.
1 John 4:16, "And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him." Here we see this claim is fully cleared up. If we dwell in the love of God, and God in us, and He is our own God. It is of no use to think or suppose it is so. Many do that; but who can say from heart-felt experience of His power and grace, that the Lord is his own God? "This God is our God for ever and ever, He will be our Guide even unto death."
Sometimes the Lord brings us into affliction to teach us this: "I will say it is My people, and they shall say the Lord is my God." The Lord works in a variety of ways to bring us into this position.
John said amongst other things (1 John 4:18): "There is no fear in love." It does not say that the Christian has no fear at any time, but there is no fear in the love of God. Oh no, that is quite a distinct thing altogether; but this perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath torment; and I should not wonder if some are greatly tormented with fear lest they should be wrong, lest they should be cut off, and never be brought to say, The Lord is my God. Their minds are troubled (or as the Apostle said, tormented) about this matter. "He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us." Not merely to say it, that is easily done; but this real love to God proves that He is our God. No one ever loved the Lord but His own children. You do not wish anyone to love your father as you do, neither could anyone do so. Just so in the Church, there are none that can love the Lord God but His own children. People may say they do, and say, Do you love the Lord, have you given your heart to Jesus, turned from your wicked way, made up your mind to be religious? Jesus is waiting for you, and almost weeping because you will not come. All that is outside the Bible; a falsehood.
The Apostle Paul said, "The love of Christ constraineth us because we thus judge that if one died for all, then were all dead." (2 Cor. 5:14) Constraining love; the man is constrained by the love of God shed abroad in his heart, to love the Lord and claim Him as his own God. What a sweet mercy! God dwelleth in him, and he in God. None but the children of God can explain this scripturally, and perhaps many of them cannot; but they are wishing to know if they are dwelling in God, and God in them--that there is this indwelling spirit and power in their own hearts, that they feel it from day to day; and that they are constrained by that to love the Lord, and speak of Him as their own God.
How sweet the mercy, how delightful the subject, when we feel an interest in it, and are able to cry, My Father, thou art the guide of my youth: to call upon the God of heaven, and claim Him as our own! Him that the heaven of heavens cannot contain; whose presence is everywhere felt, and known in supporting and supplying all His people with good; whom angels adore, and whilst adoring, veil their faces, and cry, Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God of the whole earth; the earth is full of His glory. To know Him, and to own Him, and to have Him as our own God. And seeing that He is the God of all His people, and of everyone that is seeking Him truly; let us ask ourselves if we do really seek God because we want Him. Our prayers may be exceedingly pretty, but they may not be prayers after all. Prayer is the outpouring of the heart before God, and the inpouring of His grace and mercy into the soul. Oh, how beautiful is prayer when this is the case! It is the sighing of the prisoner; it is the groaning of the man who fears he yet will perish. It is for those of whom the Lord has said: He will look down from heaven to hear them. Yes, and He will deliver them too, because they are His people, and He is their God. O! to have this God for ourselves; to help us, to sustain, to comfort, and to cheer us; and how familiar the believer is enabled to be with his God as he journeys along. When the Holy Ghost is pleased to assure him that this God is his God, there is a religious freedom, not a fleshly one, and we can then thank Him for trials, and believe that He will sustain us; we can call Him our God without any hesitation, and feel that it is all of His mercy and grace, that He is ours, and we are His. Deut. 33:29, "Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord!" So with the children of God now, Who is like the Christian that has the loving and eternal God for his Refuge and Rock, his Father and his Friend; who is assuring him every day that He will sustain him under all trials, yea, will make all things work together for his good, and the honor and glory of His own great and holy Name. "My God," said the Psalmist, "This is my God." (Ps. 104:24) "O Lord, how manifold are Thy works, in wisdom hast Thou made them all." Then he said (ver. 27): "These wait all upon Thee; that Thou mayest give them their meat in due season." How they wait upon God I cannot explain. (ver. 28) "That Thou givest them, they gather, Thou openest Thine hand, they are filled with good." O, sweet heavenly thought, it is his own covenant God; the work is all the Lord's, of His own purpose and grace; of His own willing choice. I say we should not have chosen the Lord to be our God, if He had not chosen us. "Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go forth and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain." (John 15:16) Your choice was not first. He said, "Mary hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from her." She chose Christ as her portion because Christ had chosen her. You know it is so plainly put in the Scripture; and I conclude that as I have chosen this God, He has chosen me. You need not be frightened at this word "chosen;" it is a word of consolation to us. They say you must not talk about God's choice, or predestination, but we do so, and glory in it, and rejoice that He is our God, and claim Him as the Psalmist did, and say, "I will sing praise to my God while I have my being."
If God be our God, this is the best of all, better than all things without Him. All temporal and spiritual blessings are as nothing without this. Christ as our Saviour, the Father as our Father, the Holy Ghost our Teacher and our Guide: He is our Comforter, He will comfort some poor distressed one this evening, and then they too, will put in their claim, and say as the Psalmist said, "I will sing praise to my God while I have my being." O! how precious to have Christ as our own God; to have the Eternal Father as our own Father; to have the Holy Ghost as your Comforter and Guide, and the great and glorious Person that has sealed us to the day of redemption. O, bless His great Name, then we can say with the Psalmist, "He is my God." Thomas said, "My Lord and my God." I wonder where his doubts were then; where was his unbelief? He had not time to think of it, or muster it up (like us good Christians do sometimes when we try our very best to be unbelieving). It came with such power, and he saw it was his Saviour, when his Master told him to put his finger into the print of the nails, and his hand into His side, and to be not faithless but believing. It drove away all his fears, cured his unbelief, put all his doubts aside, and he was enabled to say, "My Lord and my God," and said the Lord, "Because thou hast seen Me thou hast believed, blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed." Blessed Christian, see how it stands in our text. The Psalmist many years ago talked and wrote of the Lord as his own; he had evidence of it; how the Lord delivered him from the Philistine Goliath. He knew God then, and he met the giant in the name of the Lord God of Israel whose armies he had defiled, and you will not find one word of doubt as to the victory; because God was with him there. He did not say he hoped to overcome him, or he hoped he should subdue him; nothing of the sort; but faith in Jesus gives us the victory over hell, and the darts of sin and death. David had seen God's hand in delivering him from the hand of Saul, who ought to have been his friend; but he found, and perhaps some of you have found it so, that his friend became his greatest foe. Yes, earthly friends can change,
"An earthly brother drops his hold,
Is sometimes warm and sometimes cold,
But Jesus is the same."
O what a friend we have in our own God! And if we look back, Who taught us to seek His face? what power was it constrained us to love the Lord? what power was it that spoke peace to our hearts when we were in trouble? Who has sustained us, and in sustaining us all along the journey of life? How is it we find our hearts are not broken, though we sometimes hear of broken hearts? We have a sweet hope in His mercy, and the assurance that
"He that has helped us hitherto,
Will help us all our journey through;
And give us daily cause to raise
New Ebenezer's to His praise."
We are enabled to hold this and strive for it. I know there are many doubts about this one great fact--Is the Lord our God? But may the Lord give us grace to hold it fast. "Hold fast that thou hast, let no man take thy crown." If it is suggested that you have no right or claim to it, flee unto God for help; pray unto Him for deliverance; and He will reveal Himself again, and you shall say, as the Psalmist said: "I will sing praise to my God while I have my being."
Secondly, Meditation--"My meditation of Him shall be sweet."
Meditation is a nice quiet frame of mind; you cannot meditate if you are in haste, or if you are going too fast. Many people have said strange things when they have been in haste, but this is quiet thinking and meditating on the Lord as our own God. The Psalmist tells us he was overtaken in that way.
In Psalm 31:21, we read: "Blessed be the Lord for He hath shewed me His marvellous kindness in a strong city. For I said in my haste I am cut off from before Thine eyes." You see what this hasty spirit wrought in him. It is a thief and a robber to the people of God.
His mind was not quiet; he had this hasty spirit, and perhaps you have quietly meditated on the goodness and mercy of God when through the force of trouble or temptation it brought about this hasty feeling, and you said, "I am cut off from before Thine eyes." I will not believe a word of it. Do you think God would stand by and see His child cut off? The Psalmist knew better than this; but he spoke in haste, and his object in writing it, was that we might read it. Some child of God perhaps has said, I shall be cut off; the Lord will not have mercy on me; I am sure there is no probability of being saved; "Nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto Thee." You see he was obliged to cry unto the Lord after he had made use of this hasty expression. Psalm 116:10,11: "I believed, therefore have I spoken. I was greatly afflicted; I said in my haste, all men are liars."
Well, perhaps he was right in a certain sense, but he ought not to have spoken in haste. We all have said wrong things at times, but he said, I was hasty about it. I daresay he had been disappointed; perhaps some friend has turned against him; he said all men are liars, but if he had meditated upon it he would not have said it. Some people seem so constituted that their own constitutional weakness or hasty spirit is to them a source of distress. What will the Lord do with these hasty ones, will he forgive them? Listen to Isaiah 32:4, "The heart also of the rash (in the margin hasty) shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerer shall be ready to speak plainly (in the margin elegantly)." Oh! sweet mercy; He pardons their sin, puts it away, and gives them the knowledge of the Lord. When the Lord pardons, how sweetly then we can talk of Him. Mr. Hart knew something of this:
"Sometimes we have no strength;
Sometimes we want the will;
And sometimes, lest we might go wrong,
We choose to stand quite still.
"Again through heedless haste,
We catch some dangerous fall;
Then, fearing we may move too fast,
We hardly move at all."
But here the man of God was brought into a better frame of mind, and he said, "My meditation of Him shall be sweet." O, how sweet to meditate in the Word of God, as in Psalm 1., and the Psalmist often made use of similar words. Paul, we recollect, exhorted Timothy to the same employment in (1 Tim. 4:4): "Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophesy with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things, give thyself wholly to them, that thy profiting may appear to all."
These blessed things! think of them Christian; do not let us be hasty in saying anything against ourselves. This meditation, how beautiful when the Holy Ghost gives us a meditative mind, and we can meditate on the Lord our God! What is like it? We never say then that we shall be cut off from His eyes; we never say then, that all men are false; we meditate on the Lord's great goodness to us, and think how wonderful that Jesus should die that we might live; and this quiet meditation of the mind brings great comfort. Jesus died! how very wonderful! Many years ago, God by His Spirit brought you to feel your need of a Saviour. It seems but yesterday, yet perhaps it was forty or fifty years ago when you were brought to feel your need of Christ; when you had guilt like a mill-stone on your heart, and you could not get it off; no one could remove it, and you were brought to seek mercy through atoning blood; then how sweetly the gospel was enjoyed by you: He brought salvation to your house and to your heart.
The Lord brought you, and put you among His people. Do you remember in the days of youth, or childhood perhaps, what a cleaving you felt then to the people of God? You looked into the Scriptures, and God decided it for you by His own word. As we read just now. (1 John 3:14): "We know we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." What wondrous grace that was! We should have been in the world now, seeking happiness where we could not find it, if the Lord had not been good to us. And so in meditation we find sweetness and comfort of mind.
We meditate on the Word of God, and the more we think of it quietly in our homes, or on our beds, the more wonderful it appears that God should love us with an everlasting love: love larger than the world; larger than the heaven of heavens. How infinite is the love of God! and will He love me for ever? We think of the love of Christ, how condescending to die for rebels. If we had been His friends, it would have been a wonderful act of grace; but that He should die for His enemies, how astonishing this love; how amazing this grace! So the child of God delights to meditate in God's law, His love, His grace and mercy. It is good, and he finds it so when he reads the Scriptures. "Keep back thy servant from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me, so shall I be innocent and free from the great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord my Strength and my Redeemer."
Often we find when led by the Spirit to meditate on the things of God, and the loving grace of Christ, we are made to have a feeling sense of them. We do not wonder at Jacob saying (and we can say so too). What a beautiful sacred solemn spot is this; where God has met with us; where we can meditate on His ways and love to us. How many instances of special favor and grace we remember, and meditate on the love and grace of God. And if we have lost loved ones, the Lord did it all right; they died in the faith of Christ; they are at rest: and we are at rest about them. They cannot come to us, but we shall go to them soon; and this meditation of the Lord and of His ways is as the Psalmist said, "My meditation Him shall be sweet." Sweet thoughts, sweet meditation! (Only think, my friend, of how He has supported you, held you up and brought you along until now). Meditate on His favor; on the divine relationship with God, that He is our God, our Father, our Friend, that Jesus is our Brother, that He died for us. We think on His words as they are recorded in this dear book, and believe them too, that the time will arrive when He will come and take us home. Sweet meditation; how calm the spirit now! No wind of adversity blowing across the mind; all seems to be hushed whilst the child of God is indulged in meditating upon his God.
The Psalmist said in regard to this meditation, that it brought gladness to his heart, and we know this too, though perhaps we say nothing about it. Sometimes when we are troubled, God gives us this sacred communion, we see His goodness, mercy and truth, and gladness fills our hearts. O! says the Christian, it made me so happy, I was so glad when the Lord favored me as he did, I was so filled with gladness, to know that He is my God, and I believe He will be with me to the end. "I will be glad," said the Psalmist, "in the Lord," not apart from Him.
May the Lord give us, if it be His will, this sweet spirit and grace of meditation, and it will bring gladness to our hearts. I almost said we shall be glad that the Lord afflicted us, because He helped us so, and revealed Himself so, in the affliction. Everything seems to be right now; it was right before, only through our hasty spirit we did not observe it; but now everything seems to give us gladness of heart. We are glad the Lord has answered our prayers, that He has blessed us in the way He has done, and as we think of it, we are compelled to be glad. "I will be glad in the Lord." That is how Habakkuk wrote (chap. 3:17,18): "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the field shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation."
How glad the man was! He not only had peace of mind, but a gladness of heart and spirit; like the Psalmist, he was "glad in the Lord." Yes, it is all in Him; all our peace, comfort, gladness, joy and hope; and therefore,
Lastly, the Psalmist's determination was to praise the Lord. As it brought the spirit of praise over him, so he determined to praise his God as long as he lived: whilst he had any being. That means a great deal you know, because we shall have a being in the Lord when we have passed this life; death cannot alter that. Therefore it is a spirit of gladness springing up from meditation, a spirit of praise and adoration of the Lord. When the heart is in tune we sing best alone, for there is no one then to find fault with us; then we can sing from a full heart, and say, "I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being." Satan is confounded at such times; he is dismayed; there is this holy determination along the pathway of life, and in the day of death, till we ascend up to the throne of God, we will praise our God for ever and ever. Amen.