The Hebrew Psalter is the manual of religious experience for the children of God in every age. We may therefore expect that its rich devotional pages will express the physical conflicts and blessings of the trusting heart as well as the deeper and more spiritual states. We are not disappointed.
What is more necessary to physical health and comfort than sleep? And so we find the Psalmist like a tired and trusting child leaning upon his Father's bosom and often echoing the sentiment of Psalm 127:2, "So He giveth His beloved sleep." This is better than all the sedatives and narcotics of medical science and we have not learned far in the blessed Gospel of healing if we have not yet learned the secret of going to sleep in the arms of our Lord. How finely this is expressed in these two passages in the early Psalms of David, "I will both lay me down in peace and sleep, for Thou, Lord, only maketh me dwell in safety" (Ps. 4:8). And the other is but the echo of it, "I laid me down and slept. I awaked, for the Lord sustained me" (Ps. 3:5).
A PRAYER FOR HEALING, PSALM SIX
Our next reference is a prayer for healing, "Have mercy upon me, 0 Lord, for I am weak. 0 Lord, heal me, for my bones are vexed. I am weary with my groanings. Every night I make my bed to swim. I water my couch with tears." This is indeed a bitter cry, but it is soon changed into a joyful song of praise, "Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity, for the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping, the Lord hath heard my supplication. The Lord will receive my prayer" (Ps. 6:2, 3, 8, 9).
We turn over a few pages and we come to the eighteenth Psalm, which is a sublime record of answered prayer. "It is God," he cries, "that girdeth me with strength and maketh my way perfect. He teacheth my hands to war so that a bow of steel is broken in mine arms" (vs. 32, 34). David's physical prowess and victorious strength in battle were not due to the practiced muscles of the athlete, but to the supernatural power that fired his veins with divine strength and made his battles the battles of the Lord. The same strength is still available for those who trust in Him, and in the consciousness of His power our lives may be multiplied tenfold.
Here is a fine burst of praise for physical life and deliverance from danger and from death, "I had fainted unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living" (Ps. 27: 13). It was not in the land of the hereafter but in the land of the living that he believed to see the goodness of the Lord, and he saw it.
In the thirtieth Psalm we have again the double side of prayer and praise, "0 Lord, my God, I cried unto Thee and Thou hast healed me. Thou hast kept me alive that I should not go down to the grave. Weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning. Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing. Thou hast put off my sackcloth and girded me with gladness" (vs. 2, 3, 5, II).
The thirty-second Psalm is also a testimony of pardon and healing. "When I kept silence my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me. My moisture is turned into the drought of summer. I acknowledged my sin unto Thee and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Thou art my hiding place. Thou shalt preserve me from trouble. Thou shalt encompass me about with songs of deliverance" (vs. 4, 5, 7).
The thirty-fourth Psalm, it is needless to say, is one of the favorite Ebenezers of every victorious life. It tells of deliverance both from troubles and from fears, there is one precious promise in it that some of us have literally proved in hours of peril, "He keepeth all his bones, not one of them is broken. The Lord redeemeth the life of His servants and none of them that trust in Him shall be desolate" (vs. 20, 22).
Here is a humbler and more sorrowful prayer that sometimes fits into the hour of deep depression (Ps. 39: 10-13). "Remove Thy stroke away from me: I am consumed by the blow of Thine hand. When Thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity Thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth. Surely every man is vanity. Oh, spare me that I may recover strength before I go hence and be no more." But the next Psalm very soon turns the prayer into praise. "I waited patiently for the Lord and He inclined unto me and heard my cry. He bath put a new song in my mouth even praise unto our God."
We have come to one of the sweetest of the Psalms, and one that ought to be hung up in every chamber of sickness and pain. "The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing. Thou wilt turn all his bed in his sickness" (Ps. 41 : 3). How gentle His care! How paternal His nursing! How thoughtful His provision for the turning of our very couch, when, as sometimes happens, the trial lingers.
The forty-second Psalm has a fine expression in the eleventh verse, "Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise Him who is the health of my countenance and my God." It is repeated in the following Psalm and it may well suggest the bright and shining face which God's health gives to the countenance, and which we should ever wear as our testimony to Him.
"Call unto Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me" (Ps. 50: 15). This is a promise which may well cover every day of trouble and every case of sickness, need and pain.
"Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which Thou hast broken may rejoice" (Ps. 51:8). Here we see that spiritual trouble brings on us physical prostration and distress and that forgiveness and blessing bring healing and comfort to the mortal frame.
Where shall we find a darker picture of the sinking life than in the fifty-fifth Psalm, verses 4-6? "My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me and horror hath overwhelmed me. And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove, for then would I fly away and be at rest." But soon we hear once more the sweeter notes of praise, "As for me, I will call upon God; and the Lord shall save me. He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me. Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved" (vs. 16, 18, 22).
Again in the fifty-sixth Psalm, verse thirteen, we have another testimony of God's deliverance from death. "I will render praises unto Thee, for Thou hast delivered my life from death." "Wilt Thou not deliver my feet from falling that I may walk before God in the light of the living?"
There is a fine expression in the sixty-third Psalm, first verse, "My flesh longeth for Thee." There is such a thing as the crying out of our physical being to God for quickening and strength. Just as the babe lives on the life of its mother, so God is the supply of all our life and "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." David had learned this deep secret of the divine life, and it is because of this that Christ has become for us the Living Bread, that he that eateth Him shall live by Him.
PSALMS SIXTY-EIGHT, SEVENTY-ONE AND
"Blessed be the Lord who daily loadeth us with His benefits, even the God of our salvation. He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto God the Lord belong the issues from death" (Ps. 68: 19, 20). "I will go in the strength of the Lord God. I will make mention of thy righteousness and of Thine only. Thou which hast shown me great and sore troubles shall quicken me again and shall bring me up again from the depths of the earth. Thou shalt increase my greatness and comfort me on every side" (Ps. 71: 16, 20, 21). "My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever. I am continually with Thee. Thou hast holden me by the right hand" (Ps. 73: 26, 23). All these are testimonies of the healing and strengthening touch of God.
There are general promises in the Scriptures and in the Psalms which cover all our needs, including the healing of our bodies. Such a promise is Psalm 84:II, "For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly."
But it is needless to say the richest and fullest of the Psalms of help and healing is the ninety-first, and with this we may well pause for the present in our series of Psalm studies. It almost reads like a Psalm of Moses; the drapery of it reminds one of the tabernacle and the Holy of Holies, the secret place of the Almighty. Our space will only permit us to call attention to three things in this beautiful Psalm.
I. What God Himself is.
1. He is the Most High, above all other power and therefore above all adversaries and evils,
2. He is the Almighty. This is the mighty Shaddai, the God who is sufficient.
3. He is a refuge, and fortress, that is, the One to whom we fly in times of danger, either for offensive or defensive warfare.
4. He is our habitation, for having found Him a shelter in danger we learn to dwell there as our abiding home when the danger is past.
II. What God will be to us and do for us.
1. He will deliver us from Satan and from sickness.
2. He will deliver us from fear as well as harm and keep our hearts in perfect rest.
3. He will guard us from all evil by angelic protection and ceaseless providence.
4. He will answer our prayers and honor and bless us.
5. With long life will He satisfy us and show us His salvation.
These are some of the precious promises of this blessed Psalm.
III. What He expects of us in order that we may claim His blessing and His healing.
1. That we should abide in Him, dwelling in the secret place of the Most High, and abiding under the shadow of the Almighty. This is the secret of every blessing, fellowship with Christ, intimate union and abiding communion with our Lord.
2. We must confess Him as our Guardian and Deliverer. "I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress." We must say it as well as feel it. We must commit ourselves openly and unreservedly to His care and as we do so He will honor our faith and be to us all we take Him for.
3. We must trust Him. We must say, "In Him will I trust," "Under His wings shalt thou trust." "His truth shall be thy shield and buckler." The shield is the figure of faith. The buckler represents the sort of faith that is so fastened to us that we cannot lose it, and like the ancient buckler it is part of our very dress and inseparable from us. This is the faith that God gives and that overcomes all things and makes all things possible.
4. We must give up our doubts and fears. This is not only a promise, but a command. "Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night."
5. We must tread upon the lion and adder. We must take the place of victory. We must put our feet upon the necks of our adversaries. We must treat our spiritual enemies as conquered foes and we must do it in the very beginning, while they are young, before they get the mastery.
6. We must set our love upon Him, choose Him as our supreme object and desire and be wholly consecrated to His will and glory. It is of these He says, "Therefore will I deliver them." He is proud of our consecration and there is nothing He will not do for the heart that wholly belongs to Him.