THE SECRET OF SUBMISSION
"This is the resting place, let the weary rest; and this
is the place of repose"—
"I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for You are the
one who has done this." Psalm 39:9
Never was there a more sorrow-stricken Pilgrim than he
who uttered these words. He was "wandering in the wilderness in a solitary
way"—a dethroned king; a fugitive, clothed in sackcloth, with his head
muffled, his feet without sandals, and more terrible memories and trials
crushing his soul, which no Israelite at Elim could have shared.
Yet he was not without his sheltering palm in this
desert of tribulation. Under one of these he here reposes. When Shimei,
the representative of the abandoned house of Saul, base of heart, and foul
of tongue, came forth and cursed him, hurling stones and dust on the outcast
sovereign—the faithful followers of the King, stung to the quick with the
reproaches of the vicious man, would willingly have crossed the gorge and
silenced him with their swords.
'Hush,' says the humbled monarch, 'listen not to these
taunts. Hear as if you heard them not. This expulsion from my throne and
kingdom is not man's doing—the result of uncontrolled human passion or
wayward impulse. God has sent this "son of Belial" on his mission
of insult. Let him curse on, for the Lord has bidden him.' And he
weaves the reflections of this event into one of the most touching and
plaintive of his psalms.
Never, indeed, is David more worthy of admiration than in
this time of adversity—never truly greater is this Cedar of God than when
wrestling with the storm! His keenness of temperament might have roused far
other emotions. If he had been naturally reserved, stolid, apathetic, we
would not have been surprised to see him submitting passively to his fate.
But with feelings so finely set—cut to the quick with the imputation of
unmerited wrong (for "reproach," he tells us, had "broken his heart"), could
we have wondered, if, stung to madness—chafed like a lioness robbed of her
cubs—we had witnessed uncontrollable irritation, some outburst of vehement
rage, some vow of fierce revenge? How different! "I said, 'I will watch my
ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as
the wicked are in my presence.' I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for
You are the one who has done this."
Nor let any say, the King of Israel was a veteran in
trial, that his more sensitive feelings were now blunted, that he made a
virtue of necessity, and submitted with cold stoical endurance to the stern
fortunes of war. No; we see the saint of God, the resigned believer—his soul
even as a weaned child—remaining calm and unmoved like a rock in the midst
of the ocean surge, because cherishing the spirit of an older and kindred
sufferer—whose very words, indeed, he himself on this occasion repeats—"It
is the Lord; let Him do what seems good to Him" (1 Sam. 3:18, and 2 Sam.
"YOU did it." Would that we were ever ready to
endorse with these words all that happens to us! That prop removed—"You did
it;" that gourd withered—"You did it;" that lily gathered—"You did it;" that
mysterious blight in my life-prospects—"You did it!" Oh, to rise above
the atheism of second causes—the reflections which, if not spoken aloud,
at least thought inwardly, are thus often formulated—'If such and such had
been done, my child would have been spared; but for some untoward
accident—some cruel misfortune—bright stars, now erased from my firmament,
would still have been lighting me with their radiance!' Or these reflections
may take the still sadder form of surmises on the Divine faithfulness;
challenging the wisdom and righteousness of the Divine dealings. 'Where is
the justice and judgment which are said to be the habitation of God's
throne?—where the mercy and truth which are said to go before His face?'
In the case of David, some might be inclined to think
there was room for such questionings and complaints. 'It is hard for me,' he
himself might have felt and said, 'to encounter this sweeping blast in my
old age. After a life of devotion to the God of Israel; after seeking to
discharge, even though with mournful shortcomings, my duties as His anointed
servant, the King of His covenant people, and the musician of His
Church—hard it is to have the harp snatched from my hand, or left hanging
tuneless and mute in my Cedar-palace, and to be driven a wanderer on alien
soil!' But no such reasoning escapes his lips. Of all the psalms he ever
sung, this life-psalm was the grandest—when he pursues his mournful way, so
humble, unselfish, generous, submissive—"not repaying evil for evil, or
insult for insult."
Let us seek to have such a heart in us in our
afflictions. When the Almighty in a moment overturns our cherished
plans, and sends us forth, 'barefoot and weeping,' across the mount of
trial, let us feel that all is ordered; and say, looking high above human
instruments—O God! here am I, do to me as seems good to You: take me, use me
for Your glory. I wish not to evade any cross. The lot may be a bitter one
cast into the lap, "but its every decision is from the Lord!" If my cup be
filled with unmerited blessings, "You did it;" if emptied and
its fragments strewn on the ground, "You did it." Let the world speak of its
accident or chance, but let mine be a nobler, truer philosophy—"The Lord
gave, the Lord has taken."
Cherishing such a spirit, may we not add, that
unlooked-for refreshments and solaces—palm-groves of comfort—will be given
to us in the very season and desert of our trial? The aged King of Judah had
such in his hour of adversity—temporal refreshment (2 Sam. 16:14), and the
better solace of generous and faithful friendships, destined long to survive
the season of exile—crowning all with a safe return from beyond Jordan, and
a triumphant entrance within the walls of his beloved Zion.
So in the case of His tried people. For them, too, does
He spread a table in the wilderness. "The desert and the parched land
shall be glad for them" (Isaiah 35:1). "I will make rivers flow on barren
heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools
of water, and the parched ground into springs" (Isaiah 41:18). Thus does He
cause them to sing of mercy in the midst of judgment;
imparting, when they most need it, new and undreamt-of consolations—strength
in the hour of weakness, support in the hour of danger, friends in the hour
of loneliness, sympathy, human and Divine, in the hour of sorrow. Above all,
whatever be their wilderness experiences and wilderness trials, bringing
them at last, in safety, across the border-river to the Heavenly Zion—the
New Jerusalem—where the wail of sadness, the dirge of crushed hopes and
blighted or buried affections, shall never more be heard.
Oh! with this motto in all time of your tribulation,
"YOU did it," trust a faithful, covenant-keeping God. Yes, trust
Him—even when, like David, you may have the sackcloth on your loins and the
tear in your eye—when you seem to be under the shadow, not of the green
palm, but of the mournful cypress. "Commit your way unto the Lord: trust
also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass."
"Go not far from me, O my Strength,
Whom all my times obey;
The strongest prop on earth may fail,
But go not Thou away,
And let the storm that does Thy work
Deal with me as it may.
"Thy love has many a lighted path
No outward eye can trace;
And Thee my heart sees in the deep,
With darkness on its face,
And communes with Thee 'mid the storm
As in a secret place.
"Safe in Thy sanctifying grace,
Almighty to restore,
Borne onward—sin and death behind,
And love and life before—
Oh, let my soul abound in hope,
And trust Thee more and more!"
"The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares
for those who trust in Him."