“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.” Psalm 84:11.
In our recent visit to Virginia, while mingling with the churches and brethren of the late pastoral charge of our lamented brother Leachman, we were informed that the above text was the last he ever preached from publicly, and as they desired to cherish the recollection of his last discourse, we were requested to make the same text the theme of an editorial article. Not having heard his discourse, nor even been informed of how he was led to discourse upon it, we cannot attempt to reproduce his sermon, nor do we claim a gift comparing with the ability of our dear departed brother to write or speak on this or any other subject; yet, from the perfect harmony which has been known to exist between us, from the time of his entering the ministry until he finished his course, we are confident that however far we may fail to come up to the manner and ability with which he presented his views, we shall not differ in any important respect in regard to the doctrine expressed in the text.
A careful examination of this excellent psalm shows the inspired psalmist contemplating with admiration the amiability of the tabernacles of the Lord of hosts, and longing and fainting with desire for the enjoyment of the courts of the house of God, and at a time of sad declension, when the deserted altars of the Lord were used by the sparrows as a place to make their nests and rear their young. How desolate must be the house of God, when deserted by the true worshipers, and so unfrequented by the people of God as to be left for the timid sparrows to use even the altars of the God of Israel as a sequestered place for their exclusive use. Well might the psalmist long and faint for a restoration of the enjoyment of the privileges of the deserted house and altars of the Lord, and sadly contemplate the blessedness of an abode in that consecrated place, and of the man whose strength is in the sacred precincts of the house of God, and in whose heart are the ways whereof; “For,” he says, “a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.”
“For the Lord God is a sun and shield.” This is given as a good and sufficient reason of the preference expressed in the preceding verse, for one day within the courts of the Lord, rather than a thousand in the tents of wickedness. A sun and shield signify light and protection, which is found in the amiable tabernacles of the Lord, but cannot be enjoyed in the tents of wickedness. This consideration, together with the blessed assurance, “The Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly,” draws forth the exclamation, “O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.” Let us contemplate the text in the beautiful order in which it is recorded.
THE LORD GOD, in striking contrast with the lords many and gods many which are revered by the idolatrous nations of the earth. “Thou whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the Most High over all the earth.” Psalm 83:18. Self-existent, independent, and in all things supremely great and glorious. As Lord, he holds dominion over all beings, all worlds and all events, and as God the only object of worship in heaven or in earth. As the Lord God he will not give his glory to another, nor his praise to graven images. He is called in this psalm the Lord of hosts, the living God. O Lord of hosts, my King. Lord God of hosts. His footsteps are in the mighty deep, and his ways are past finding out. To know him is Eternal Life. Inspired prophets and holy men have declared what he is in his revelation to his own chosen and peculiar people. The psalmist testifies, he is a refuge and strength to his people, and a very present help in trouble. “He standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.”
But we propose to consider what he is as set forth in the unequivocal testimony of our text. And first, he is the Lord God, and as such he is a Sun and Shield. These figures are beautifully illustrative of what the Lord God is to his people, as revealed in the person of his dear Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, “Who being the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Hebrews 1:3. “For the Lord God is a sun.” However sublime and beautiful this figure may appear when applied to God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose awful radiance and refulgent glory fills all heaven with dazzling brightness, we know that it is applied also by the Holy Spirit to Christ, and presents him in his Mediatonal glory, as the source, fountain and fullness of light, life and immortality to the church which is illuminated only by the brightness of his glory. Of him the prophets wrote as the Sun of Righteousness that should arise with healing in his wings, on them that fear him.
In the sacred record which God has given of his Son, we are first informed of his eternal power and Godhead. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” John 1:1-4. In this record we have the testimony that Christ, whose name is called “THE WORD OF GOD,” was with God, and was God, and that in his advent, “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” And still further, that the life which was and is in him is the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Spiritual life and spiritual light are identical. And as all the life and immortality of the church is in Christ, He “is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see; to whom be honor and power everlasting, Amen.” I Timothy 6:15,16. How beautiful the emblem. The Eternal Father is “the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness, nor shadow of turning.” And as Christ and the Father are One, and all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ bodily, so embodied in Christ is all the immortality and refulgent light of eternity, even as the light which shines from the natural sun is embodied in the sun which enlightens the natural world. Our Lord Jesus Christ, in his supreme glory as one with the Eternal Father, is to his church the source, center and fountain of all her spiritual vitality and refulgence. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined. And in prediction of his coming it was said to her, “Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. This light is marvelous, as witnessed by all who are delivered from the power of darkness and translated into it. “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” The church of Christ, as a city set upon a hill, whose light cannot be hid, has no other light than that which is given her in Christ. John in his vision of her glory says, “And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it.” That is of the natural sun and moon, or lights of nature or of art. “For the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.” “And there shall be no light there, and they need no candle, neither light of the sun, for the Lord God giveth them light.” Revelation 21:23, and 22:5. “Having the glory of God, and her light was like a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.” Revelation 21:11. This living light is the glory of God, for it originates in and emanates from him, and is the light of immortality. It is brought to light by him who hath abolished death, and brought immortality to light through the gospel. All who have it have eternal life, for it is eternal life; and all who are destitute of it abide in the darkness of death. All who are born of God are born of light, and are the children of light, for they are the children of God, who is the Father of lights, and the great embodiment of all spiritual light, life and immortality, for our spiritual light and life is hid with Christ in God, and nothing can be more idolatrous than for the children of God to look for light, comfort or animation to any other source. “Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves with sparks; walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of my hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.” Isaiah 50:11. To depart from the Lord God, to look for spiritual animation, light or comfort from any other source, or to rely for life and salvation, or for any spiritual blessing on any other than the Lord our God, will certainly subject the children of God to his rod, and from his hand shall they lie down in sorrow. The all-sufficiency of the light and life which the saints have in their God, is implied by the figure. He is a Sun, and the floods of living light from him can no more diminish the fountain than the shining of the natural sun can lessen its fullness of light. The unattainableness of light and immortality from God by any work of ours is also clearly implied in the infinity of space. Who can ascend up into heaven to bring it down? Who can enjoy its flaming radiance, but those on whom its rays unaided descend? Who can see the sun in any other than its own light? All its stores of radiance comes unsought and unaided to the living, who have eyes to see and be benefited by it. All the treasure of the earth cannot buy one additional ray, nor can all the powers of earth enable the dead or the blind to see or know its splendor. All the living who have sight can enjoy a whole sun, without depriving any other of the same privilege. And the same light that enables us to see the good things which surround us, makes manifest to us also the evil. As the light of the knowledge of the glory of God which shines in Jesus’ face reveals to us his glory, it also reveals to us the pollution of our own nature. And when our own vileness is seen in the magnitude in which it is presented by the searching light of God, who is our sun, we are made to feel the need of a shield.
Those who have no shield shall cry for rocks and mountains to hide them from the face of him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the presence of the Lamb. Neither rocks nor mountains can afford a refuge for the enemies of the Lord; they shall be broken to pieces, and the Lord shall consume them with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy them with the brightness of his coming. But our God, who is our sun, is also himself our shield, and a perfect place of safety to all his people. As a shield he has not only protected them from judgment and fiery indignation, interposing himself between us and the stern demands of his holy law and eternal justice, receiving in his own body the chastisement of our peace, and the stripes due to our transgressions, but he has so encircled his people within himself that their life is hid in him. He is a wall of fire round about them, and the glory in their midst. The eternal God is their refuge, and underneath them are his everlasting arms. God, who is the sun, has not only shielded his chosen from condemnation and wrath, but he is their shield to protect them from all their enemies. He has been their dwelling place in all generations, even from everlasting to everlasting, so that, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” The psalmist says, “I will say of the Lord, he is my refuge and my fortress; my God; in him will I trust. Surely he will deliver thee from the snare of the fowler and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust; his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day, nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness, nor for the destruction that wasteth at noon-day. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation. There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.” “Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder; the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.” Psalm 91:2-10, 13.
Nations and armies have exhausted their wisdom in inventing armor to shield them in the day of battle, but their strongest shields have been broken. Horses and chariots are vain things for safety. Anti-christ has entrenched herself with mighty bulwarks, in which her children vainly confide; for God, our shield, has declared that their covenant with death he will annul, and their agreement with hell shall not stand. The overflowing scourge shall sweep away their refuge of lies and the falsehoods under which they have sought for protection. But they that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion that cannot be removed. So invincible and invulnerable is the shield that secures the people of the living God, that the enemy must first overcome the God who is our shield before they can endanger those whom he protects.
“The Lord will give grace and glory.” These are connected together by a divine power; both are gifts of God, and none can be the recipient of the one without the certainty of both. As glory cannot reach us except by grace, so neither can grace be given us without the certainty of glory. The will of God is the supreme law, and God is governed in all his works by it alone. He worketh all things after the counsel of his own will, and in that will he has inseparably connected grace and glory. The Lord will give grace and glory. “As sin hath reigned unto death, even so shall grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first born among many brethren. More over, whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” Romans 8:29,30. This is all of grace; for “By grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” And God gives it because he will give it; he will give grace and glory. This grace by which we are saved was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. And it is the grace that bringeth salvation, and teaches those unto whom it is given that denying ungodliness and worldly lust, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.
Let it never be forgotten by the saints that the grace which secures salvation and immortal glory is the grace of God; it can only come from God, and also that he gives it. If it were offered to men conditionally, however easy the condition, it would not be a gift; for what we bargain for and obtain in consideration of a condition by us performed would be in the nature of a purchase; besides, if grace or salvation were offered conditionally, then its acceptance or rejection would depend not upon the will of God, but on the will of man; whereas the Scriptures not only testify that it is not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. “The Lord will give grace and glory.” “He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and he will have compassion on whom he will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” Romans 9:15-18.
“No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” Those who walk uprightly, in a general sense, are those who walk circumspectly, or who walk up to or according to a right rule. God has not only given his people a perfect rule in his word to walk by, but he has written his law in their hearts, and has also given them the spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, which spirit shall lead them into all truth. And he himself works in them both to will and to do of his good pleasure. They are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which he has before ordained that they shall walk in them. He has wrought all their works in them, and thus he has not only taken them out of a horrible pit and miry clay, and set them upon a rock, and put a new song in their mouth, but he has also established their goings, and not left it for man that walketh to direct his own steps. He leads them in a way they know not, and in paths which they have not known. “And they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance.” In the inspired Scriptures the man of God is thoroughly furnished to every good work. Walking according to that infallible rule, they walk uprightly.
Again, to walk uprightly is to walk erectly, not like a beast, or serpent, or creeping thing. The church of God is the body of Christ, and Christ is the head of the body, the church, and when the church and her members walk in obedience to him, they exalt him as their head, showing him to be above all; then do they walk uprightly. And as all good things are given them in Christ Jesus, so in their union with, and submission to him, no good thing can be withheld from them. He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for them, how shall he not with him also freely give them all things? It is true the children of God while in the flesh carry about a body of death, which cannot walk uprightly, a carnal or fleshly mind that is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be; that depraved earthly nature always wars against the spirit; its locomotion is always serpentine and never erect. But, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” I John 3:9. And the apostle Paul says, “For I delight in the law of God, after the inward man; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” Romans 7:22,23.
The church of God, as the body of Christ, always walks uprightly. “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” I Corinthians 15:50. But in that which is born of the Spirit we find the child of God and heir of all these gracious promises. But we have the assurance that the conflict shall soon be over, and the victory obtained over all that is vile in us, when our God shall change our vile body and fashion it like the glorious body of our risen and glorified Redeemer. This mortal shall then put on immortality, and this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and the saying that is written shall be brought to pass, that death is swallowed up of victory. Then, “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is only the fleshly nature in the children of God that now disturbs and makes them restless. Faith rests upon the gracious assurance of our text, that no good thing shall be withheld from them that walk uprightly, and the earnest desire of every saint is that he may walk in all things uprightly and worthy of the vocation wherewith he is called.
September 15, 1869.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 7
Pages 486 – 494