Arthur Pink, 1952
"He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the beggar from the dunghill — to set them among princes, and make them inherit the throne of glory!" 1 Samuel 2:8
What an amazing stoop of love is that — from His throne in the Heaven of heavens, the Lord reaches down to the dunghills of earth — that He may deliver those who are in a lost and loathsome estate.
Nothing is here ascribed to free will or attributed to the creature. "I will extol you, O LORD, for you have lifted me up" (Psalm 30:1). Man is a fallen creature, and so wretched is his plight that he is quite incapable of raising himself. He must be divinely lifted out of that horrible pit into which sin has plunged him. Said the Psalmist, "You who lift me up from the gates of death" (Psalm 9:13), and that is the acknowledgment of every regenerate and instructed soul. As one well expressed it, when referring to the extreme misery and helplessness of fallen mankind, "If one good thought would save them from Hell — it is wholly out of their power to conceive, much less think it."
What has been pointed out above was blessedly illustrated by the demon-possessed youth, whose case baffled the apostles, and of whom we are told, "Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up" (Mark 9:27).
But 1 Samuel 2:8 tells us of something yet more wonderful than the grace which seeks out filthy objects who are a mass of corruption, making known how high it elevates them, "To set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory."
God does nothing by halves. He exalts beggars to the status of "dear children." He takes them into the place of nearness unto Himself. He brings them into union with His dear Son, making them "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17). He takes them out of the miry clay of an unregenerate state — and sets them upon the rock. Marvelous transition and exaltation is that! Translated from the most abject condition — to the highest possible dignity!
Shame is replaced by honor;
filthy rags are replaced by the spotless robe of righteousness,
poverty is replaced by the unsearchable riches of Christ!
We rightly marvel at the goodness and power of God in raising us from such depths to such heights — but let us also be awed and solemnized by recalling afresh the awful price which had to be paid before that could righteously be done. The abasement of the Son of God was necessary in order to the advancement of vile worms of the earth. He who was rich had to sound the lowest level of poverty — before we could be made rich. The Beloved of the Father had to be made an object of shame — before we could be raised. The Lord of glory must die — in order for hell-deserving sinners to be made alive.
"Lifted up" was He upon a convict's gibbet. Lifted up to be a spectacle of derision to His enemies! Lifted up to be smitten by the hand of divine justice! But also "lifted up" that all men might be drawn unto Him (John 12:32) — that is, men of all sorts and conditions, of all nations, of all classes, of all ages. Lifted up to be the Object of faith, that serpent-bitten victims might look unto Him and be healed (John 3:14-15).
And what should be our response to the abounding grace of God and the knowledge-passing love of Christ? Why, having tasted and seen that the Lord is good, to delight ourselves in Him, to fix our affections on Him, and set Him "as a seal upon the heart" (Song 8:6). We should be engaged with His perfections and seek closer and more intimate communion with Him. As those who have been supernaturally lifted up, we should do as David, "Unto you, O LORD, do I lift up my soul" (Psalm 25:1). That is an act of adoration, for the soul of worship is the worship of the soul. It is the owning of God as the Fountain of our happiness. This is confirmed by, "Rejoice the soul of your servant: for unto you, O LORD, do I lift up my soul" (Psalm 86:4). That is much more than a lifting of the voice, namely a deep and fervent longing to be molded according to the divine will. It is only God who can put real gladness into the heart, and if we are to experience a continuation thereof we must be careful to maintain communion with Him.
In order for the continuance of that communion, we have to heed God's precepts and determine, "My hands also will I lift up unto your commandments, which I have loved" (Psalm 119:48). That is the gesture of one who longed to embrace the objects of his desire and esteem, of one who hungered and thirsted after (practical) righteousness.
How it rebukes the indifference of many professing Christians toward the divine statutes, and makes manifest the enmity of the carnal mind, which stigmatizes obedience to God's commandments as "legalism" and "bondage."
It was a resolution unto a determined observance of them, signifying I will put forth my utmost endeavors to obey; and that is ever the case where God's will is delighted in. This is confirmed by the next clause, "and I will meditate in your statutes" (Psalm 119:48). I will apply my mind to them, thinking out how to heed them in all the details of my life. Knowledge and commendation must terminate in practice — compare James 2:12, "So speak and do." Obedience must be serious and diligent, making it our first concern and labor.
Yet love's resolution cannot be carried out without the requisite strength, and that has to be sought definitely from above. "Hear the voice of my supplications, when I cry unto you, when I lift up my hands toward your holy oracle" (Psalm 28:2). The lifting up and spreading abroad of the hands is mentioned frequently in the Old Testament as a posture of prayer, Exodus 9:29, 33; 1 Kings 8:22; Psalm 88:9; 141:2, etc. In the New Testament also, "I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting" (1 Timothy 2:8).
It is an attitude of earnest supplication. It is an emphatic expression which imports entire dependence of soul upon God, when all looking to the creature is renounced. It is the act of a beggar imploring alms that he may obtain help and support. It betokens a sense of need, a seeking the supply of felt wants. It signifies an endeavor to "take hold" of the Lord (Isa 64:7), that we may draw upon His fullness — compare Mark 5:28, 30!
It is also an attitude of expectancy, a reaching forth to receive the things promised and asked for.
That we may be better fitted to do so in confidence, faith must be definitely and diligently occupied with its Object. "I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence comes my help" (Psalm 121:1) — those unmovable, durable, unchanging products of God's hands — themselves the symbols of His immutability and power. We are exhorted, "Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who has created these things, that brings out their host by number: He calls them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one fails" (Isa 40:26).
What we see in creation should ever raise our thoughts to the Creator, and draw out our hearts in homage to Him. "Lift up your eyes to the heavens" (Isa 51:6) and view them, seeing His perfections as they are reflected in them, proclaiming His eternal power and Godhead. Consider what might and wisdom He must possess, what dazzling light He must dwell in, what glory He must be compassed with! That is the language of assurance, as people abashed and ashamed cannot look up (Luke 18:13), those who walk with Him exclaim, "Our eyes are unto you!" (2 Chronicles 20:12 and cf. Psalm 25:15).
"Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees" (Heb 12:12). Christians should ever remember that they are fellow members of one body; hence, when those who are comparatively hale and hearty spiritually, see some of their brethren or sisters in a feeble and forlorn case, it is both their duty and privilege to extend a helping hand to them. As both Ezekiel 7:16-17 and 21:7 show, hands that hang down and feeble knees are figures of faintheartedness. Because of opposition and persecution, some become dejected, others faint under the chastening rod of God, others become discouraged because of unrealized hopes. But whatever be the cause, when a believer perceives any of his fellows giving way to a spirit of sloth and becoming wearied in well-doing, he should pray for them, set before them an example of faith, courage and cheerfulness, and endeavor to give them a word in season. "Say to those who are of a fearful heart, "Be strong, fear not: behold, your God" (Isa 35:4).
Remind them of the divine faithfulness and sufficiency, quote some of His promises, relate to them some of the gracious dealings and powerful deliverances which you have personally experienced at the Lord's hand.
To those who are groaning under the burden of sin, tell them of the blood and intercession of Christ.
"Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet, and show My people their transgressions" (Isa 58:1). That is a word to the preacher, and a most timely one for the present hour. God sees sin in His people, and is displeased therewith. But often they are unwilling to recognize it, and must be shown. The work of ministers is many sided. Tenderness is to be combined with firmness, compassion with boldness, love for souls with concern for God's glory. They are not only to comfort His people (Isa 42:1), but to "lift up your voice like a trumpet" (Isa 58:1), sound the alarm, spare not hypocrites, put forth your strength in so doing. Flatter and deceive them not. However unpopular it makes you, exert yourself and make your voice heard in rebuking the worldliness and carnality, the coldness and formality of the saints. There will be no improvement in the pew — unless the pulpit once more performs this duty.