THE MESSAGE OF PSALM 84:11
Biblical Research Monthly
As the Editor Sees Things
By Dr. David L. Cooper
PSALM 84, COMPOSED BY THE SONS OF KORAH, expresses the longing of the earnest heart for the sanctuary of the Lord and the blessedness of worshiping God in the beauty of holiness. The quietness and the serenity of Israel's place of worship is illustrated by the fact that the swallow and the sparrow delighted to build their nests there.
This psalm was possibly written during the time of Absalom's revolt, when David and the officials of his government had fled from Jerusalem for safety. Being deprived of the privilege of access to the worship of God, they remember the sanctity and the blessedness of the worship. They look forward, however, to returning and enjoying again the privilege of communion with God in the appointed place.
In verse 9 the psalmist prays that God will protect David, His anointed. This petition is offered in view of the fact that all wish to return and enjoy the blessings of the city and the worship.
The writer then declares that a day in the courts of the temple is better than a thousand when one is deprived of the privilege of service. Moreover, he states that he would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. The reason assigned for this desire is found in verse 11: "For Jehovah God is a sun and a shield: Jehovah will give grace and glory; no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly."
There are four things which I wish to note in this verse and which have a marvelous message for each one of us.
IN THE first line the psalmist declares that "Jehovah God is a sun and a shield" to the people of God. What is the significance of this statement? It could have been rendered, "For Jehovah God is sun and shield." There is no article in the original. It simply affirms that God is sun and shield. In other words, God is compared to the sun of our solar system and also to the shield of the warrior.
In the first place, let us notice what the sun does for us. Scientists tell us that life upon earth is possible only because of the sun. If its life giving rays should be withdrawn from the earth, we are told, the planet would immediately freeze. All life would perish. The sun furnishes us with light, heat, and our vitamins which are so very essential, as we recognize today. God has in His wisdom placed the sun in our heavens and has located our earth in relation to this life-giving body in such a way that we can live upon the earth and enjoy the blessings of the Almighty.
The Apostle Paul told us that it is in God that we live, move, and have our continual being (Acts 17:17-28). This statement is absolutely correct. At the same time God is providing the heat, light, and energy, together with all necessary vitamins, for us through the radiation of the sun. What the physical sun is, therefore, to life upon the earth, the psalmist declared that God is to us. Thus the sun became a symbol of life giving energy and power, illustrating what God does for us constantly. We cannot do without Him for one moment. We are absolutely dependent upon Him for everything. Thus He is sun to us.
GOD IS also a shield to His people. In ancient times, soldiers had different types of shields to ward off darts, missiles, and arrows thrown or hurled at them. Thus what the shield was to the soldier in ancient times, God is that to His people. This thought, expressed without a figure, is simply an affirmation that God protects His people at all times. By the psalmist we are told that "The angel of Jehovah encampeth round about them that fear him, And delivereth them" (Ps. 34:7). The angels are "ministering spirits, sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation" (Heb. 1:14).
In speaking of God's protection of His people, David compared the Lord to a rock, to a fortress, to a refuge, to a high tower (Ps. 18:1). The saints of God have always fled to the Lord for protection in times of danger. He has never failed anyone of them and never will.
"JEHOVAH will give grace and glory." The term "grace" is a marvelous one. Loving kindness is the usual term used in the Old Testament to indicate the New Testament idea of grace. These words are replete in meaning so that it is almost impossible for us to exhaust their contents. I may, however, call attention to various shades of the meaning of grace. According to Paul II Timothy 1:8-11, grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before times eternal, but is now manifested "by the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus." Grace here means favor, in that God planned our redemption before the foundation of the world. Our accepting this grace is referred to by the Apostle in Ephesians 2:8 in the following words: "For by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." Neither works nor merit enter into the procuring of salvation since it is a matter of grace on God's part and faith on ours.
After we are saved, we need more grace. Paul had a thorn in the flesh. Thrice he tells us, he prayed that it might be removed. Finally, the answer came, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my power is made perfect in weakness" (II Cor. 12:9). Grace here evidently refers to assistance from God which enables one to live for God and to glorify Him in one's life.
Grace, in this same sense, is referred to in Hebrews 4:16. Jesus is seated upon a throne of grace. We may come to Him and obtain mercy for the past and grace to help in time of need. The expression, "to help in time of need," literally means, "answering to a cry." Whenever the child of God is in distress, all he has to do is to look to God in earnest, sincere, believing prayer. When he does this, he may obtain grace in the form of help to assist him in every time of need.
Not only do we have the promise of grace to meet our daily needs, but the unspeakable one that He will give us glory when this life is over. We are saved by hope. We are looking forward to the glory of God that shall be brought to us at the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. At that time He will, according to I Peter 1:13, bring additional grace to iron out all our imperfections and to bestow glory upon us. We will earnestly look forward to the fulfillment of this promise.
"NO GOOD thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly." This statement assumes that all good things are in God's hands and that He is the one who dispenses them or who withholds them for reasons good and sufficient unto Himself. This is in perfect accord with the statement of James that "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning" (James 1:17).
God did not withhold His Son, the greatest gift of all but rather delivered Him up for us all. Because of this fact, the Apostle Paul asked, "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things?" We may be certain that He will grant us all things that are good for us.
But the verse we are examining says that He will not "withhold from them that walk uprightly." This statement implies that God will withhold even good things from those of His children who do not walk uprightly. This is a disciplinary measure, doubtless. This thought reminds us of a statement made by Paul to the Corinthians that they were not straitened in God but rather in themselves. They, because of following God afar off, made it impossible for Him consistently to pour out the riches of His grace and His blessings upon them. Whenever the people of God today fail to walk uprightly, their conduct naturally makes it impossible for the Lord, who does all things for the best of His children, to bestow many good things upon them that He would like to.
If we were only walking close to the Lord and our lives were pure, clean, and holy as they should be, I haven't the least doubt but that God would pour out the fullness of His blessings of a spiritual and a material nature. This He would do in order that we might glorify Him. But so long as we follow Him afar off and crowd Him out of our lives, He is unable to bestow these marvelous bounties of His grace upon us.
Realizing our failures and shortcomings may we, by His grace and power, yield to Him and allow Him to cleanse us and enable us to walk uprightly in order that He might not withhold any good thing from us. Let us in faith trust Him to do this.
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