Help from the Santuary (Part 1)
Preached at Salem Chapel, Landport, Portsmouth, on Lord s Day Morning, August 22, 1841
THERE can be no doubt that the Psalms testify much of Jesus. The Lord Himself, before He "opened their understandings to understand the Scriptures," said to His disciples, "All things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning Me." Lu 24:44 The Lord of life and glory, whilst hanging on the cross, cried aloud from Ps 22- "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Nay, we find the very circumstances, which attended His crucifixion described in that Psalm with great minuteness; such as, "They gaped upon Me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of My bowels." "They part My garments amongst them, and cast lots upon My vesture."
Now I believe that Ps 20 refers mainly to the same subject, and that it is the prayer of the church offered up to God the Father on behalf of the Lord Jesus. The church foresaw, by the Spirit of prophecy, the sufferings of her Head; she looked forward to the agonies and distresses that the Lord Jesus was to undergo for her, and the benefits that were to arise out of them; and, foreseeing these things, in the Spirit of prophecy, she poured forth Ps 20 as a prayer to the Father on His behalf. The Holy Ghost framed this prayer for her by way of anticipation; and thus, as the apostle speaks, "The Spirit of Christ which was in her testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow." 1Pe 1:11 Viewed in this light, how earnest and how suitable are her petitions! "The Lord hear Thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend Thee; send Thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen Thee out of Zion."
That this interpretation of the Psalm is not imaginary or forced, is evident from several expressions in it, which have a clear reference to Jesus. Thus, ver. 3 Ps 20:3 it says, "Remember all Thy offerings, and accept Thy burnt sacrifice;" where the church prays the Father to accept that sacrifice which Christ was offering upon the cross. So ver. 4: Ps 20:4 "Grant Thee according to Thine own heart, and fulfil all Thy counsel." The "heart" of Christ was set upon the salvation of His church; and the "counsel" of Christ to be fulfilled was "the counsel of peace." Zec 6:13 Nay, so certain was the church of Christ s success in His covenant undertakings, that she says, "We will rejoice in Thy salvation" (ver. 5) Ps 20:5 even before He went forth in the travail of His soul for the salvation of His people. But as an additional confirmation that this Psalm testifies of Jesus, we find His very name mentioned (ver. 6) Ps 20:6 "Now know I that the Lord saveth His anointed; He will hear Him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand." I need, perhaps, scarcely point out that the word "Christ" means "anointed," and that therefore we might read, "Now know I that the Lord saveth His Christ."
But I would by no means limit the interpretation of the Psalm to this one point. As the experience of Christ is the experience of the church, "He being tempted in all points like as we are," He having travelled in the road which we have to walk in, the same words are applicable also to the experience of believers. Thus, though the verses primarily, I believe, and mainly apply to Christ s experience, yet we may also apply them spiritually to the experience of every child of God who suffers with Christ. When, therefore, we have glanced a little at the primary meaning of the words, and shown how they refer to Christ Himself, we will then pass on to consider the text with reference to the experience of the people of Christ.
There was, then, "a day of trouble" to come upon Jesus; in fact, His whole life, from the cradle to the cross, was one continued series of trouble. But He had certain seasons of more especial suffering; such as the garden scene, when He "sweat as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground;" and those six hours of agony, when He was nailed to the cross, and not merely endured the most dreadful anguish of body, but also the tremendous wrath of God in His soul. It was to this season of distress that the church looked forward when she said, "The Lord hear Thee in the day of trouble;" implying that in that solemn season of distress the Lord Jesus would cry unto the Father; as the apostle speaks, Heb 5:7 "Who in the days of His flesh, when He offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared; though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered." In His conflict with the powers of darkness "the name of the God of Jacob defended" Him. In that trying hour "help was sent to Him from the sanctuary," and "strength was given Him out of Zion."
I could not pass over this primary meaning of the Psalm without thus briefly pointing it out; but having done so, I shall pass on to the secondary meaning, and consider the text as applicable to the experience of the children of God.
The reason why this Psalm, as well as others of a similar nature, bears this two-fold interpretation, springs from this, that the experience of Christ and of His church are similar in kind, though not in degree. "As He is, so are we in this world." "Leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps." "If so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together." "Whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son." "I fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ." The Lord, therefore, when the sons of Zebedee asked Him that they might "sit, one on His right hand, and the other on His left hand, in His glory," said to them, "Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of, and be baptised with the baptism that I am baptised with?" They said, "We can." And what was His answer? "Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of, and with the baptism that I am baptised withal shall ye be baptised."
What this cup was, the Lord s own words declare, when, in the gloomy garden, "He prayed, saying, O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me." Mt 26:39 This cup was the cup of suffering on account of imputed sin-the cup of God s wrath. "In the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture, and He poureth out of the same." Ps 75:8 "Stand up, O Jerusalem, which has drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of His fury." Isa 51:17 This cup Jesus drank to the very dregs; and some drops of it are tasted by every one of His people. His baptism, too, was a baptism, a complete immersion into, suffering; and with this too are His faithful followers baptised. It is, then, from this union of Christ and His people in suffering that the Psalm derives its two-fold meaning.
l.-"The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble." Viewing then these words as applicable to the experience of the child of God, we find mention made of "a day of trouble." All who shall be saved in Christ with an everlasting salvation will have more or less of a day of trouble. This day of trouble may come upon some at their first setting out; on others in the middle of their course; and on others just before the end, before the Lord sweetly visits their souls, and takes them to eternal rest. But "a day of trouble" must come, sooner or later, upon every child of God. This is that day spoken of in Jeremiah. Jer 30:7 "Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it! it is even the time of Jacob s trouble: but he shall be saved out of it." This "day of trouble" is when sin is laid as a heavy burden upon a man s conscience; when guilt presses him down into the dust of death, when his iniquities stare him in the face, and seem more in number than the hairs of his head; when he fears he shall be cast for ever into the bottomless pit of hell, and have his portion with the hypocrites.
This "day of trouble" is not literally a day, a portion of time meted out by the rising or setting sun, a space of twenty-four hours. The hands of a clock, or the shadow of a dial, cannot regulate spiritual troubles. A day here means a season, be it long or short, be it a day, or a week, or a month, or a year. And as the season cannot be measured in length, so the trouble cannot be measured in depth. The only wise God deals out various measures of affliction to His people. All do not sink to the same depth, as all do not rise to the same height. Ail do not drink equally deep of the cup; yet all, each in their measure, pass through this day of trouble, wherein their fleshly religion is pulled to pieces, their self-righteousness marred, their pleasing prospects of propitiating the favour of God broken, their presumptuous hopes crushed, and they brought into the state of the leper, to cry, "Unclean, unclean." Until a man has passed through this day of trouble, until he has experienced more or less of these exercises of soul, and known guilt and condemnation in his conscience, until he has struggled in this narrow pass, and had his rags of creature righteousness torn away from him, he can know nothing experimentally of the efficacy of Jesus atoning blood, nor feel the power of Christ s resurrection.
Now in this day of trouble the living soul will groan, being burdened. The blessed Spirit who has convinced him of sin, is in him as a Spirit of grace and supplications, and enables him to sigh, and cry, and pray to the Lord out of the depths of a troubled conscience. And here we see a marked distinction between the convictions in the reprobate that end in despair, and the convictions in the child of God, that terminate in blessed deliverance. Whenever convictions fall upon the natural conscience of a vessel of wrath, there is in him no crying and sighing unto God for mercy. He may indeed "howl upon his bed," but he does not "cry unto God with his heart" Ho 7:14 he has not received the Spirit of grace and of supplications so as to draw near the throne of grace, nor has he any of those feeble glimpses of hope, which encourage the quickened elect to cry still more after mercy. But with him all is one black, lowering cloud of despair, through which no beam of hope breaks, one scene of unmitigated anguish, such as we read of concerning Judas, who went out and hanged himself, without one cry for mercy and pardon.
But the elect, who pass through this "day of trouble," wherein their fleshly religion is broken to pieces, their towering presumption brought down and their fleshly hopes scattered, are not left to sullenness or despair. A spirit of prayer is given them; they are "led with supplications" Jer 31:9 they "seek Him that turneth the shadow of death into the morning" Am 5:8 and "the Spirit itself maketh intercession for them with groanings-which cannot be uttered." They are thus enabled to pour out their souls before the Lord 1Sa 1:15 and speak to Him out of the abundance of their complaint and grief. Thus the children of Israel sighed by reason of bondage in Egypt; Ex 2:23 thus Moses cried unto the Lord at the Red Sea; and thus Nehemiah prayed to the God of heaven, in the presence-chamber of Artaxerxes the king. Ne 2:4 Being thus enabled spiritually to pray and cry, their groanings, desires, and breathings enter into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. This is implied in the words, "the Lord hear thee." But the Lord will not, cannot hear any prayer that is not of His own inspiring. He bows down His gracious ear to the utterance of His own breath in the soul. In the living soul, then, during the day of trouble, it is not sullen silence, it is not reckless despair, it is not one black scene of unmitigated horror; but, amidst its trouble, there bursts forth the "well of water springing up into everlasting life;" there is the going forth of an inward spirit of supplication in the soul, with fervent wrestlings, at the throne of mercy.
Now, have your souls known anything of this day of trouble? I do not ask whether it commenced with the first work of grace upon your soul, nor how long it lasted, nor how deep it went. These are circumstances, which vary according to God s good pleasure. Paul had three days of trouble, Ac 9:9 the thief on the cross perhaps not three hours, the jailer at Philippi perhaps not three minutes; and Zion, as soon as she travailed, brought forth children. But I must ask, Has your soul known anything at all of this day of trouble? Now, if you have never known a day of trouble, you have never known what it was to pray in the Spirit, nor to have your prayers heard; for "the Lord hears in the day of trouble."
But what are the petitions that the soul puts up in the day of trouble? What are its chief wants and most urgent desires?
1. Its most pressing want, and its most importunate desire is for the pardon of sin; and this not merely viewed in the letter of God s Word, not merely received as a doctrine of the Scriptures, but inwardly revealed as an experimental reality, as a felt substance, as a divine testimony sealed in the court of conscience by God Himself. A man may for a long time try to stave off this deep sense of his own ruin and misery; but, sooner or later, the Holy Ghost will "lay judgment to the line, and righteousness to the plummet," and make him feel in the depths of his conscience that unless pardon be spoken into his soul by the mouth of God Himself, unless peace be enjoyed through the blood of the Mediator, he must sink forever into the depths of endless woe. Then arises the cry for pardon, for the conscience to be sprinkled with the blood of Jesus, that it may be purged from guilt and condemnation, and from all dead works, to serve the living God.
2. Another urgent want and importunate cry of the soul in this "day of trouble" is after the manifestation of Christ s righteousness. The holy law of God curses and condemns it. This strips off all the rags of creature righteousness. The blessed Spirit then enlightens the eyes of the understanding to see Christ s righteousness in the Scriptures, shows the suitability and all-sufficiency of this glorious robe, and kindles fervent desires to receive it as a covering from the hands of God. The seeking soul thus becomes interested in that blessing-"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." Nor can anything satisfy it but the manifestation of Christ s righteousness to justify it from the curse of the law and the guilt of sin, and clothe it with a robe in which it may stand accepted before the eyes of a heart-searching Jehovah, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. If this be so, what must we say of those that fight against imputed righteousness-that with daring blasphemy call it "imputed nonsense?" Must we not say that all such testify to their own condemnation, and openly proclaim that they never knew a day of trouble, and never hungered and thirsted after righteousness? For if they had seen what they were in the sight of God, had their heart been opened up to them in its true colours, and their "secret sins been set in the light of God s countenance," they would have been so pricked in their conscience-they would so have seen their own righteousness as filthy rags, that under the blessed Spirit s operations, they would have hungered and thirsted, panted and cried, after the manifestation of that glorious righteousness of Jesus "which is unto all, and upon all them that believe."
3. Another urgent want and pressing desire of the soul in the "day of trouble" is for a special manifestation of Christ. I will tell you, friends, what brings a man to cry after these manifestations and revelations, which the world calls enthusiasm and fanaticism, and professors say is mere delusion-it is having wants, exercises, doubts, fears and troubles; it is being brought into that spot where nothing can deliver the soul from the lowest hell but the personal, individual, experimental, supernatural manifestations of the mercy and grace of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Now, till a man is brought more or less into "the day of trouble," he will trifle with God, he will sport and play with truth; and the solemn verities of eternity will be to him little less than idle tales. But when he is arrested, tried and condemned by God s holy law, and brought by the Spirit into those depths out of which he feels he cannot deliver himself, nor any human arm deliver him, then he is taught in the depths of his soul to sigh and sue after the manifestation and revelation of God s mercy and grace in the face of Jesus Christ. And until he gets these sweet manifestations in his conscience, he cannot taste the peace of God which passeth all understanding.
It is not, then, having passed through a day of natural trouble, which stamps us as Christians, for "man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward" Job 5:7 Nor is it altogether trouble about our souls that stamps us as Christians; for many have been troubled about their souls, and it has been but the natural convictions of the reprobate. Nor is it having sighs and cries (though these are, in a measure, an evidence of life) that stamps a man fully and decidedly as a Christian, for we must wait the issue before it can be fully decided whether it is "the great and exceeding bitter cry" of Esau, or the spiritual sigh of the prisoner of hope. But those things stamp a man as a Christian, which do so in his own conscience. Those things seal a man outwardly that seal him inwardly-that is, receiving out of Christ s fullness some testimony of mercy and grace, some smile from His blessed countenance, some intimation of His special love.
II.-"The name of the God of Jacob defend thee." The word "hear," in the preceding clause, implies that there was a petition put up; the word "defend," in the present, implies that there were enemies, for if there were no enemies, why need the church pray-"The name of the God of Jacob defend thee?" The connection, then, of the two clauses of the verse shows that in "this day of trouble" there are enemies that attack the soul.
1. Satan, for instance, is an enemy, as his very name signifies, that takes advantage of this day to drive the soul into despair. His keen eye perceives what is going on. He sees the troubled countenance, the tottering knees, the downcast look; his sharp ear hears the lamentations poured forth, and therefore he comes in with all his infernal enmity and malice in order to sink the sinking soul, to strike the dying dead.
2. Guilt, with his knotted club, as Bunyan describes him, is another enemy that falls hard upon the soul in this day of trouble. His blows fall always upon the tenderest parts, and sadly bruise the conscience.
3. Persecutors and professors of every kind are enemies in the day of trouble. As Job speaks, "Those whose fathers I would have disdained to set with the dogs of my flock"-"Now am I their song, yea, I am their byword; they mar my path, they set forward my calamity." Job 30:1,9,13 As the strong and fat cattle thrust with side and shoulder and push all the diseased with their horns, Eze 34:21 so when a poor soul is smitten with pining sickness, all the presumptuous professors in the country butt at him. "Now," say they, "he is made manifest. He is proved to be a hypocrite, as we always thought him."
4. But even some of the children of God may prove to be enemies to the soul passing through the day of trouble. Job found it so when he cried, "My friends scorn me; but mine eye poureth out tears unto God." Job 16:20 Nay, the Lord s own disciples seem to have doubted Him when they said, "But we trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel." Lu 24:21
From these and all other its outward and inward enemies, the soul needs defence. The church therefore prays, "The name of the God of Jacob defend thee." But why should she use the expression, "the name of the God of Jacob?" For this reason; the "name of God" implies all those perfections and attributes that God hath revealed concerning Himself. We are known, each of us personally, by a name; and when the name is mentioned, it recalls to our mind not only the person himself, but all those peculiar features of character by which each individual is known. Thus "the name of God" in Scripture signifies everything that God has revealed concerning Himself. In this it is that "the name of God" differs from God. The infinite Jehovah is incomprehensible to finite creatures; but he has graciously revealed certain parts of His character, which they can comprehend when spiritually revealed. Thus the Lord told Moses, "There shall no man see Me and live;" and therefore He adds, "Thou shalt see My back parts, but My face shall not be seen." When the Lord, then, had put him into the cleft of the rock, we read that "He descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord." Ex 34:5 That is, all that might be known of His gracious and glorious character. So He says of the Angel (i.e. Jesus, the Messenger of the covenant), whom He would send before Moses to keep him in the way, "My name is in Him" Ex 23:21 that is, all that may be known of Me, all My revealed attributes. When, therefore, the church prays for the travailing soul, "The name of the God of Jacob defend thee," she asks the God of Jacob to put forth those gracious attributes and perfections which He has revealed concerning Himself. All these are enlisted on behalf of the Church of God.
1. For instance, there is the mercy of God. The mercy of God is a part of the name of God, for His name is merciful. He so proclaimed it in the ears of Moses, "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious." This mercy, then, the church supplicates as the defence of the soul in the day of trouble. To "defend" a person is to interpose in his behalf, to throw a shield before him; thus there must be some interposition of mercy, some stepping forward of this gracious attribute, some flowing forth of the compassion of the eternal God, some visible appearance (I mean visible to faith) of this name of the Lord as a strong tower, or as a shield and buckler.
Sin gives Satan his power. Then, if mercy pardons sin, it defends the soul from his assaults; and the proclamation of mercy in the conscience beats him effectually back.
Sin arms guilt with his knotted club. Then if "mercy rejoiceth against judgment" Jas 2:13 it disarms this cruel enemy. But only manifested mercy can overcome manifested guilt; and therefore what the living soul wants is not merely to see mercy declared in the Word of God, but for this mercy to step forth out of the bosom of the Most High, and to flow into it through the atoning blood of Immanuel, that where sin hath abounded, there grace may much more abound.
2. Again, in the name of God is implied also the faithfulness of God; for this is one of His revealed attributes. He is therefore called "the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy" De 7:9 and the apostle says, "God is faithful, by whom ye were called," etc. 1Co 1:9 It is declared of Him that "He cannot lie" Tit 1:2 and He tells His Zion, "Yea, they may forget; yet will not I forget thee."
Now this faithfulness of God to His covenant, to His promises, to His oath, to everything which He has revealed on behalf of the poor and needy, stands forth to defend His children in the trying hour. Everything may fail, yet this faithfulness fails not. "Once have I sworn by My holiness, that I will not lie unto David."
3. Love is another revealed attribute of God, and is therefore included in the name of God; for "God is love." But what so eager, so prompt to defend a beloved object as love! It is "strong as death," and triumphs over every foe. What more suitable, what more precious defence than a taste of this love! Therefore connected with the promise-"Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty" (that sight which kindles love), we read, "His place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks." Isa 33:16,17
Time will not suffer me to enlarge upon the other revealed attributes of God which are contained "in the name of Jehovah;" but all are at different times needed to defend the timid, helpless soul. I have shown how this blessed name defends the soul from the assaults of Satan and guilt; but he needs a similar defence from his other enemies, such as the taunting professors of religion. This David felt when he said, "Let Thy mercies come unto me, O Lord; so shall I have wherewith to answer him that reproacheth me" Ps 119:41,42 Perhaps in times past, as "evil communications corrupt good manners," he has, through an intimacy with vain, confident professors, learnt some of their evil ways; he has perhaps talked too boastingly, has walked too much in the footsteps of those who are at ease in Zion; has stood upon an eminence where God has not placed him. Now, when he is compelled with shame to take the lowest room, when he is brought to be low in a low place, he confesses with guilt and confusion of face how he has been led away, how he has been deluded, how he once thought himself safe, and now finds that that safety was nothing but carnal security.