“Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins. So foolish was I, and ignorant; I was as a beast before thee. Nevertheless, I am continually with thee; thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.”
There are many deep and terrible experiences that the elect of God are made to know under the teachings of the Holy Ghost, and though humiliating, and our nothingness, vileness and helplessness are felt, yet how gracious are the fruits of all things unto the called of God. For the Lord our God, who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will, in his dealings with us ever has in view the glory of his own name, and the welfare of his dear children, The psalmist had many experiences which he portrays in this Psalm. His steps had well-nigh slipped, he had been envious of the ease and prosperity of the wicked. “For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.” But the Lord mercifully directed his steps into the sanctuary of God, and opened his eyes to see some things he had not understood; and there he again tasted mercy from the God of his mercy. Reviewing, the many things he had passed through, and his present state, he retells the story, and speaks of his present blessedness, his portion as he is held in the hands of the Lord. He declares what is the ultimate height of glory, that is, his “earnest expectation” – Rom. 8:19.
“Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins.” There are seasons with all the Israel of God “when every one shall know his own sore and his own grief” – 2 Chron. 6:29. There is that heart-grief that is ours when the Holy Ghost shows us our iniquities, and we, by his gracious operations, are moved to mourn over them unto the Lord, and there are many other griefs arising out of God’s providential dealings, and then, as described in this Psalm, we are grieved in our cogitations over matters that we do not understand, for how frequently our conclusions are erroneous. Ah, some self-wise, shallow professors of Christ’s name may say, The psalmist ought to have known better than to be envious; I would not have troubled myself in such matters; I, I, I would have walked, and have done better in all these matters than the psalmist. Enough said of these self-sufficient religionists. No one has more self-condemnation than a child of God when the merciful, gracious Lord shows him the vanity of his ways. “Thus my heart was grieved,” whether there was a true foundation or not. “I was pricked in my reins.” These were not momentary pin pricks, but the spear, the arrows of conviction of God. Yes, and Satan’s fiery darts wounding his soul also! I well remember the time when I first took notice of what is written in this Psalm. It was about twenty-seven years ago. I was riding in my buggy to attend a funeral, and was in a cast down state of soul. I said within me, What text of the Scriptures shall I preach from at this funeral? and I thought of the words, “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.” I thought, That will do. Then I said within me, How, under what circumstances came the psalmist to come to this persuasion? So I mentally recalled the preceding verses, beginning at this twenty-second verse, Oh, I thought, is it such an one as this? I found tears coming into my eyes and flowing down my cheeks, for I felt I was just such a person myself. “So foolish was I, and ignorant; I was as a beast before thee.” People sometimes may think, and rather boastfully say, to be heard of others, What a fool I was. But this of the psalmist is no such self-eulogizing prattle. When the Holy Ghost shows a child of God the folly of his thoughts, and speech, and ways, it is humbling, it is graciously so, for we are made to be of a meek and lowly mind before the Lord our God. We see how unwise we were, how far astray, how we had wandered away from the paths of judgment, how erroneous were our conclusions, how stupid we were. “Fools, because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted” – Psalm 107:17. Such we see we have been, and no marvel that we were prey to all afflictions. We see now (that is, under divine enlightenment, after having received instruction in the sanctuary of our gracious God), that we belong to the foolish things, base things, things that are despised, things that are not, (1 Cor. 1:27-28). “So foolish was I, and ignorant.” So vile, so depraved, so astray from God and the truth, “I was as a beast before thee.” Ah! to be thus before the Lord knowing that we are there revealed unto him exactly as we are, for in these sacred, dreadful moments we poor sinners know that our God is the discerner of the thoughts and intents of our heart, neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight, but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do (Heb. 4:12-13). “The publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner” – Luke 18:13. “And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes” – Gen. 18:27. Job exclaimed, “Behold, I am vile: what shall I answer thee? I will lay my hand upon my month.” “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
“So foolish was I, and ignorant; I was as a beast before thee.” Ah it is no trifling matter to see one’s self so foolish, so ignorant, so degraded that we feel that we are sunken lower than the human family. “I was as a beast before thee.” Oh our God is the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, and what am I? Sinful, vile, foolish, I have to loathe myself. “I was as a beast before thee,” humbled, prostrate in the dust before the Lord, and yet his grace so exercising our sinful hearts that we are meekened, and contrite in heart, confessing our transgressions, our folly and shame, and imploring his compassion, pleading for his mercy in Christ Jesus. But can he, will he, bestow his loving-kindness on such a foolish, vile, ignorant mortal, one who feels, “I was as a beast before thee”? Yes, he will have mercy upon us. He is the God of all grace, and we are bowed before the throne of grace, the throne of God and the Lamb (Heb. 4:16). Our God is rich in mercy unto all who call upon him in truth. When the Lord said, Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee saith the Lord, and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, was Jacob offended! Did Israel feel insulted to be named a worm? Ah, no! We feel the Lord knows us exactly as we are, and each one says, I feel I am but a poor, creeping, sinful, helpless worm. The Holy 0ne of Israel will be the help, the protector, the Redeemer of these worms. Did not Christ Jesus, the dear Lamb of God, in his humiliation exclaim, Behold I am a worm, and no than; a reproach of men, and despised of the people? Jesus, who in his own person was without spot, holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners, the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of his person, yet when he as the Surety, Redeemer of his own, bare their sins, when all the shame, the ignominy of his people was laid upon him, when he was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities, when he was made a curse for as, how humiliated he was, how crushed and smitten. Behold, and see if there is any sorrow like his. He cried out unto Jehovah the Father, “Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns” – Psalm 22:21. So the thought, the hope, is put in our hearts that our precious Christ whom we have is not an high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
“I was as a beast before thee. Nevertheless I am continually with thee; thou hast holden me by my right hand.” “Nevertheless.” Notwithstanding I am all that is foolish and base, I am not spurned from thy presence, I am not cast out into outer darkness to languish and perish in my folly. Ah, I have many times had such a feeling sense of the vileness of my Adamic nature, I have felt myself as a most loathsome reptile, too base to have being in the world, I have seen myself fit only for God’s eternal reprobation, for the damnation of hell. “Nevertheless.” Oh the exceeding riches of grace in God’s kindness to us in Christ Jesus. We are miracles of God’s grace. Again and again in the twentieth chapter of Ezekiel the Lord says, “But I wrought for my name’s sake.” He will have mercy upon whom he will have mercy. “Nevertheless, I am continually with thee; thou hast holden me by my right hand.” It is because of his own everlasting and immutable love that Jehovah holdeth fast unto himself his own elect, and such of them as he hath called, and hath so shown them their depravity and utter baseness will by his gracious operations in their souls feel to be as dust and ashes, and tell the Lord, So foolish am I, and ignorant; I am as a beast before thee. If such a worthless wretch can be loved of God, then it would not do to turn this one loose; he is not fit to go abroad alone, so foolish, so ignorant, he will get into all manner of trouble, take the wrong path, stumble into the ditch, be the prey of every snare, allured by every deceiver, robbed by spiritual thieves and robbers. “Nevertheless, I am continually with thee; thou hast holden me by my right hand.” Held so lovingly, mercifully unto himself, who shall pluck us out of his hand? Saith our dear Savior, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one” – John 10:28-30. “Yea, he loved the people; all his saints are in thy hand: and they sat down at thy feet; every one shall receive of thy words” – Deut. 33:3. This is the important thing, not our hold on God, but that eternal God, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost has hold of us. It is the great, almighty, gracious hand that has hold of “my right hand.” It is the weak, tiny hand of the little child held in the strong, kind hand of the Father. The little toddling child holds on to the, father, but the father has the outside grip. There is a verse of a hymn that reads, “Lord, I would clasp thy hand in mine,” but I will alter it, and put it as the psalmist does,
“Lord, I would clasp thy hand in mine,
Nor ever murmur or repine,
Content, whatever lot I see,
Since ‘tis my God that leadeth me.”
Can any power pluck us from the hand of our covenant God? Who shall ungrasp the gracious grasp of the Lord God omnipotent who reigneth? Oh it is blessedly wonderful to me a poor sinner. “Nevertheless, I am continually with thee.” Sometimes I have thought he has loosened his hold of me, turned me adrift, given me up, tired of me, I am such a fool, need so much mercy and grace. Ah, I have thought, and have said in my infirmity, I am a castaway, so worthless, so unprofitable that God no longer holds me unto himself. I am all astray, a wanderer in the waste howling wilderness; 1 am so vile, so fretful, rebellious, perverse, not fit to pray, and no heart even to pray, and if I do he regards me not; when I cry and shout he shutteth out my prayer. Dear reader, I could go on and on attempting to tell of my times, of my wretchedness, dullness, hardness, my inward vileness, but cannot fully tell the dreadful story. “He restoreth my soul.” Oh the blessedness of this blessedness. Oh the preciousness of our precious Christ. The clouds, are swept away, he lifts up the light of his countenance upon me. The noise of Satan the roaring lion is hushed, the day dawns, the night is past, the devouring, howling beasts of prey have gone into their dens. Christ is mine and I am his. Jesus’ precious blood and righteousness is my comfort and glory. Then I find I am with my God, held unto him, never separated from him, he still holdeth me by my right hand. “My people have forgotten me days without number” – Jer. 2:32. Oh the shameful ingratitude, yet how assuringly the Lord speaks in Isaiah 49:15-16, and in Isaiah 44:21. “O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me.” If it were not that we are divinely kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time, we would never be able to hold on our way. So the psalmist feels to confide in his God who has hold of him. In his faith he is so persuaded of the faithfulness, and the immutable graciousness of the Lord, that he says, “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.” The believer in Christ needs a guide. The Holy Ghost, the Comforter, shall guide us into all truth. Many think because they have a better knowledge of some items of doctrine, and can talk about the truth, that they are all right, acceptable to God. But all this may be, and yet a person may in his heart know nothing of the truth of the gospel, and have never walked one step therein. What does any one know of the Savior who never felt he was a perishing sinner? What does a man know of grace who does not feel altogether unworthy, helpless, a poor base thing, a nothing? (1 Cor. 1:28). How can any one know that Christ is the Lord our Righteousness unless he has been taught to see and feel that all his righteousness is as filthy rags? What know we of the precious, cleansing, sin-atoning blood of the Lamb of God? Oh we are made to cry, “Foul, I to the fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die.” So with unnumbered sacred things of our God and Savior the Spirit of truth so teaches, so guides the elect and called of God, that they are made with all appreciation vitally and experimentally to enter into the truth. The difference between the mere professor appears at times to be slight; and the children of God may be deceived in these fleshly professors. Concerning hypocritical professors the Lord speaks of them to Ezekiel, “Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the Lord. And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not” – Ezekiel 33:30-32. What avails all this mimicry of hypocrites? There is much head and tongue religion in the world, but what does my soul know of Christ, his precious blood, of his high priesthood, of him as my Advocate with the Father? To that poor sinner who has been made to confess unto the Lord, “So foolish was I, and ignorant; I was as a beast before thee,” how comforting is the persuasion in his soul that, “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel.” In all my straits, in all doubtful matters, when blind guides would order my goings, when my own unwise heart would devise my paths, thou shalt guide me. Thy counsel, the blessed gospel of Christ, shall order my goings. The pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night. The Lord is so unchanging in his love he will ever counsel us. He so blessedly declares, “I will instruct thee, and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye” – Psalm 32:8. He will ever have his eye upon us; never for one moment are his chosen out of his sight. He sees us when we see not him, and the darkness and the light are both alike to him. The children of God are not carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease, but perplexities are their lot. Sometimes they are called to do business in great waters, and as the storm rages their souls are melted because of trouble, and they are at their wit’s end. But through the floods and the fires the Lord is with his people. His rod and his staff shall comfort us in the valley of the shadow of death. Thou shalt “afterward receive me to glory.” God hath called unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, and the elect of God whom he did foreknow he hath predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son, and, moreover, whom he did predestinate them he also called, and whom he called them he also justified, and whom he justified them he also glorified (Rom. 8:30). The pilgrimage is ended, we are come through all the tribulations in our journey and our almighty Friend has held on to us, and guided us safely to the end, bringing us to glory.
“How cheering the prospect of glory to come,
And the bliss of eternity see;
To be with the Lord and his chosen at home,
Oh this will be heaven to me.” “
“Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” Oh, thou art more glorious and excellent than mountains of prey (Psalm 76:4). Some people speak as though the pre-eminent attraction in heaven is to go to meet and to be forever with some precious much loved one of whom they have been bereaved. All this is mere human nature. Earthly kinships are not perpetuated in the realms of eternal glory. They belong to time, and to this world. When we depart this life, and are taken into heaven itself it is true we shall then be forever at home with all the chosen in Christ Jesus, the household of God, but it is to depart and to be with Christ, so shall we ever be with the Lord. “Whom have I in heaven but thee?” My God, my Redeemer, the Lamb in the midst of the throne, our eternal All. “There is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” Christ is “The Desire.” – Hag. 2:7. In all the characters he sustains unto his people he is the One so needed by us poor sinners.
“His presence disperses my gloom
And makes all within me rejoice.”
FREDERICK W. KEENE
RALEIGH, North Carolina
SIGNS OF THE TIMES,
May 15, 1924,
Vol. 92, No. 10.