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The Truth Of God And The Certainty Of His Promises, Ought To Dispose Us To Patience.
I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness. Then she that is mine enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her which said unto me, Where is the Lord thy God?—Micah 7:7-10.
We read in the prophet Jeremiah (chap. 9:4, etc.), that before the Babylonish captivity and the destruction of the temple, besides the idolatry that brought that desolation upon them, treachery, lying, falsehood, hatred, and envy prevailed to a high degree; and that charity was quite cold and dead amongst them. For wheresoever these abominations prevail, there, it is plain, God is not; and that he has forsaken not only the city or the kingdom, but also the hearts of those that dwell there; and when God forsakes us, destruction quickly finds us. So says the prophet (Jer. 9:4-8): “Take ye heed every one of his neighbor, and trust ye not in any brother: for every brother will utterly supplant, and every neighbor will walk with slanders. They weary themselves to commit iniquity. Their 337 tongue is as an arrow shot out, it speaketh deceit; one speaketh peaceably to his neighbor with his mouth, but in heart he layeth his wait.”
2. Here we may see the wretched state of Jerusalem, and what flagrant iniquities they were which hastened its ruin. Treachery and iniquity did so abound, that there was neither truth nor honesty left among the people. Their only aim was to cheat and defraud one another; and their hearts being thus set upon iniquity, they brought on themselves ruin and destruction.
3. Something similar to this, is the complaint of the prophet Micah: “Woe is me! for I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits, as the grape gleanings of the vintage; there is no cluster to eat; my soul desired the first ripe fruit. The good man is perished out of the earth; and there is none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood. They do evil with both hands earnestly. Trust ye not in a friend.” Micah 7:1, 2, 3, 5. When a people or nation are come to this pass, they are industriously digging a pit, into which they design to rush boldly, and with their eyes open. Would to God this were not the case in our own times! We, too, deeply share in their guilt, and we must expect to share in their punishments. For our destruction is of ourselves. O that we could at last awake, renounce our past errors, put off our carnal minds that are at enmity against God, and love the truth and peace. If we do not so, we are condemned already, and cannot receive help.
4. But in order that upright and good men may not be too much discouraged in this sad and dangerous state of things, we must consider by what means the holy men of old supported themselves in such a state of universal corruption. The prophet Micah (Micah 7:7, etc.), pointing out, as it were, with his finger the fountain of true consolation, says, “Therefore I will look unto the Lord: I will wait for the God of my salvation!” That is his first comfort. The second is, “My God will hear me.” The third is, “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy. When I fall, I shall arise.” The fourth is, “When I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me.” The fifth is, “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me.” The sixth is, “He will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness.” The seventh is, “Then she that is mine enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her.”
5. First, he says, “I will look unto the Lord: I will wait for the God of my salvation.” In these words is contained the doctrine of faith and hope, which are, as it were, the two watchful, never-sleeping eyes of the soul, by which it constantly looks towards God in the greatest dangers and necessities; the greater the calamity, the stronger ought to be our faith, the more vigorous our hope. Then it is that we should call to mind the words which we repeat at the beginning of the Apostles' Creed: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth;” that is, I believe that there is no misery or calamity so great, but God can and will deliver me out of it. Let us learn, therefore, to turn away our eyes from temporal suffering, not regarding it, but God “who worketh salvation in the midst of the earth” (Ps. 74:12), and who alone 338 can and will deliver us according to Psalm 123: “Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us. Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us; for we are exceedingly filled with contempt. Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud.”
6. Moreover, as it is the way of God to help us, not at the time appointed by us, but in his own due time; so it is not enough for us to say, “I will look unto the Lord;” but we must add, “and wait for the God of my salvation.” For faith, hope, and patience, have an entire relation to, and mutual dependence upon each other; as we may see in Psalm 27; in the beginning of which, David, looking up to God, says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” He concludes his prayer with these words: “I believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” Ps. 27:1, 14. So Psalm 130:5, 6: “I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait; and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning.” “For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” Habak. 2:3. But if the sorrowing soul shall say: “Alas, I have waited a great while!” let her know that it is necessary it should be so, in order that her faith, hope, and patience, may be tried and approved in the sight of God. We never please God more, than when with patience and humility we wait for the accomplishment of his promises, and receive with submission all his determinations concerning us.—Everything has a certain beginning; so has everything an appointed end; and whosoever does not wait for that, labors in vain. As the grain is exposed to all the vicissitudes of wind and weather, before it comes to maturity, and, whenever it becomes ripe, is the sweeter and better upon that account: so is it with the cross. He that bears it with patience, and waits for the end of it, shall reap “the peaceable fruit of righteousness.” Heb. 12:11. For St. Paul affirms, “that hope maketh not ashamed” (Rom. 5:5); for when it is founded upon divine grace, as upon a firm rock, it continues immovable in adversity. Hence it is said, “Let none that wait on thee be ashamed.” Psalm 25:3. “They looked unto him and were lightened; and their faces were not ashamed.” Ps. 34:5. “In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed.” Ps. 31:1. “The expectation of the poor shall not perish forever.” Ps. 9:18.
7. The second consolation is, that God will certainly hear our prayers: “The Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping. The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer.” Ps. 6:8, 9. “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.” Ps. 18:6. “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The eyes of the Lord are 339 upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.” Ps. 34:6, 15. “Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him.” Ps. 91:14, 15. “O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come. By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer us, O God of our salvation; who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar off upon the sea.” Ps. 65:2, 5. But if thou shalt say in thine heart, “All these were men eminent for holiness, faith, and dependence upon God; but as for me, I am not worthy to be compared with them,” I answer, out of Rom. 3:23—“All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” but are heard and accepted through grace, by repentance and faith. “The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him; he also will hear their cry, and will save them.” Ps. 145:18, 19. “He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer. This shall be written for the generations to come.” Ps. 102:17, 18.
8. The third consolation is contained in these words: “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy! when I fall, I shall arise.” Though the world, according to the perverse spirit that governs it, rejoice at the sufferings of good men (John 16:20), yet shall they at last be confounded, and the righteous be comforted. Hence we are told, “The Lord will not cast off forever: but though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion, according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.” Lam. 3:31, 32, 33. “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” 1 Cor. 10:13. The same God that laid the burden on you, will in due time take it off, comfort you, and deliver you from death. “Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing; thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness.” Ps. 30:11. “The Lord upholdeth all that fall; and raiseth up all those that be bowed down.” Psalm 145:14. “In a little wrath, I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.” Isa. 54:8. “It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning.” Lam. 3:22, 23.
9. The fourth consolation is contained in these words: “When I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me.” By darkness, he means a state of affliction; which is darkness, indeed, wherein a man can neither see nor be seen by his friends with the least glimpse of worldly comfort. The sufferer sits in the very region of shame and sorrow, the valley of the shadow of death, exposed to the violence and assaults of evil spirits and wicked men. But dark and dismal as it is, the Lord himself will enlighten it; the light of whose countenance shines most of all in the dismal darkness of worldly affliction. There he appears to comfort the disconsolate, and cheer, with the brightness of his presence, the desolate and desponding soul. Thus it is said, “Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.” 340 Ps. 97:11. “Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness; he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.” Ps. 112:4.
10. The fifth consolation is this: “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me.” Let the afflicted person think on this, and remember that though from those that afflict him he may have deserved better usage; yet from the hand of God, he has deserved a great deal worse. Whatever befalls us, is by the permission of God. Upon this account, the evils that we suffer from wicked men, are called in this verse, “the indignation of the Lord.” Blessed is he that beareth this affliction with patience, and receiveth it no otherwise than as coming from God himself. “Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of thy law; that thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit be digged for the wicked.” Ps. 94:12, 13. “It is good for a man that he sit alone and keep silence, because he hath borne the yoke upon him. He putteth his mouth in the dust, if so be there may be hope. He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him; he is filled full with reproach.” Lam. 3:27-30. This was truly the case of David, who might properly say, “I will bear the anger of the Lord, because I have sinned against him.” For thus he speaks, when he commanded Zadok to carry back the ark of God. “If I shall find favor in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, and show me both it and his habitation. But if he thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him.” 2 Sam. 15:25, 26. And when Shimei cursed him, he humbly acknowledges the appointment and permission of God, saying, “Let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him.” 2 Sam. 16:11. “Fret not (therefore) thyself because of evil-doers. Put thy trust in God.” Psalm 37:1, 5.
11. The sixth consolation is, “He will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness.” This is a figure of speech taken from the condition of a man that has long lain in darkness, and been as a dead man out of mind; or of one taken out of a dark and deep prison into the light and open air. For as these, having been long confined to darkness and misery, are exceedingly refreshed with the cheerful light of the sun and the splendor of the heavens; so after the patient bearing of the cross, the light of God's countenance breaks forth, and the beams of divine consolation strike powerfully upon the soul, filling it with glory and joy unspeakable. Ps. 50:2. Did not Joseph thus break through the shades of darkness and misery, like the bright sun out of a cloud? Gen. 41:38. And did not God bring king David out of the region of misery into a state of joy and happiness? So also at the resurrection of the dead shall our bodies be brought out of their dark prisons, and we shall rejoice in the everlasting light and glory of God.
12. The seventh consolation is, “Then she that is mine enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her.” This is the proper punishment of wicked men who rejoice at the affliction of others, that they shall be covered with confusion. The time will certainly come, when the mockers shall be struck with unavoidable shame, and shall be convinced by 341 their own consciences, of the wrong which they have done to others. This was Shimei's case, who could not but blush and be confounded in the presence of David and Solomon. 2 Sam. 19:19; 1 Kings 2:44. “It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you: and to you who are troubled, rest.” 2 Thess. 1:6, 7. “I rejoiced not at the destruction of him that hated me, nor lifted up myself when evil found him. Neither have I suffered my mouth to sin, by wishing a curse to his soul.” Job 31:29, 30. “Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you; and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you: that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain upon the just and the unjust.” Matt. 5:44, 45.
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