2860. Owl Or Eagle?

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Owl Or Eagle?

No. 2860-49:577. A Sermon Delivered On Lord’s Day Evening, March 10, 1872, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

A Sermon Published On Thursday, December 3, 1903.

I am like an owl of the desert. {Ps 102:6}

Who satisfies your mouth with good things; so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. {Ps 103:5}

 For other sermons on this text:
   Exposition on Ps 102 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2860, “Owl or Eagle?” 2861 @@ "Exposition"}
   Exposition on Ps 102 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3113, “Gratitude for Great Deliverances” 3114 @@ "Exposition"}
    {See Spurgeon_SermonTexts "Ps 103:5"}

1. In the one hundred and second Psalm, the believer compares himself to an owl, and in the one hundred and third Psalm, in almost the parallel verse, he is compared to an eagle. What a blessing it is that the saints of God, in the olden times, were moved by the Holy Spirit to write down their experiences, and what a mercy it is that they wrote them out so fully! They have not given us miniatures so much as full-length portraits. This was especially the case with David; again and again, he draws himself to the very life. Possibly, if left to himself, he would have omitted from his autobiography some of his faults and failings, as well as the grosser sins of his life; but he was under the guidance of the Spirit of God, and therefore he has shown us his true self, infirmities iniquities, and all that he was. It is related of Oliver Cromwell that, when his portrait was about to be painted by an eminent artist, the painter desired to conceal the wart on the Protector’s face; but the true hero said, “Paint me just as I am, wart and all.” In a similar way, David, the champion and hero of Israel, in the portrait of himself, painted by himself, shows us his scars and warts, his blemishes and imperfections.

2. This, I say again, is a great mercy; because, if it were not for this fact, we might have supposed that these gracious men, of the olden time, were not subject to the same infirmities as ourselves, and we might have concluded that we were not the Lord’s people; “for, surely,” we should have said, “God’s true people never wandered as we wander, never failed as we fail, were never downcast as we are, and were never on the borders of despair as we sometimes are.” But we turn to this blessed Book, and we find that the saints of God, described in it, were very much like the saints of the present time. The sea of life is rough for us, and it was rough for them; their vessels leaked then, and ours leak now; the winds sometimes blow a hurricane now, as they did then, and spiritual navigation was, in their day, very much what it is today. This must always be a reason for consolation for us, and also a means of direction, for, since they fought and struggled as we do, we can examine their methods, to discover how they gained their victories; and, having the same kind of enemies to deal with, and the same divine assistance at our disposal, we flee for help and strength where they fled, and use the same means which they used so well in overcoming their adversaries. If God had changed, that would have altered matters for us; but, since he is still the same, and deals with his children according the same rule of grace, we are both comforted and instructed as we read how he delivered his ancient people. I hope it may be so while we are meditating on our two texts.

3. Observe, first, that the saints of God have differed from each other. Some think that these two Psalms are by different authors; for one of them says, “I am like an owl of the desert,” while the other says, “My youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” But, since I believe that these Psalms were both written by the same person, I see another line of thought, which is that the saints of God have, at times, differed from themselves. Extremes have met in them; they have been like an owl one day, and like an eagle another day. We shall close our meditations by observing that only the Lord can change the sadness of his people into gladness, and make the owl of the desert into the eagle that soars aloft on mighty pinions.

4. I. To begin, then, The SAINTS OF GOD HAVE DIFFERED FROM EACH THE OTHER. One mournfully hoots, “I am like an owl of the desert”; and another, stretching his broad wings, cries, as he mounts towards heaven, “My youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

5. This may be accounted for in various ways. Something may be said for the different times in which men have lived. David, on the whole, lived in times in which the Church of God prospered. Some think that the one hundred and second Psalm was written by Nehemiah, or by Daniel, who lived in more troublesome times, when the house of God lay waste, and Israel was carried into captivity. The children of God usually sympathize very much with the condition of things by which they are surrounded. When there are revivals, they are cheered; and when there is a long time of declension, they feel humbled and brought low. We do not expect that the age of Jeremiah should produce many rejoicing saints; neither, on the other hand, should we expect that the days in which the Lord magnified his name through his servant David should produce a majority of mournful saints. Much will, therefore, depend on the times in which God’s people live; yet not so much as some would think. There have always been some who have blessed the name of the Lord when they have been the only godly people in the district; they have shone like stars of the first magnitude amid the thick darkness of the night that reigned around them, while there have been others who, even in times of refreshing, have cried out, “My leanness, my leanness!”

6. Something must also be said for the various works in which different men have been engaged for the Lord; some of God’s servants must be of a joyful disposition, or they would never get through the heavy work that is appointed to them. Others, who have the heavy task of rebuking incorrigible sinners, and threatening God’s judgments on them, are naturally of a somewhat gloomy state of mind. They would not be prepared for their stern work if they were not themselves stern. I have no doubt that those wonderful sermons of John Bunyan, when he “preached in chains to men in chains,” were all the more powerful because there was a sympathy, in the sorrow of his heart, with those who were themselves in sorrow through their sin. God may be as much glorified by a weeping Jeremiah as by an eagle-winged Ezekiel.

7. The trials of God’s people also differ. All of them feel the weight of his rod, but they do not all feel it equally. There are some believers, whose path is comparatively smooth. In temporal things, they are well provided for; they have good bodily health, the members of their family are spared to them, they seem to travel along a very easy way to heaven. But there are others, to whom the getting to glory is like crossing the Atlantic in a storm. They have wave upon wave; all God’s billows sometimes seem to go over them. Divine wisdom arranges our lot, but our lots are not precisely the same. I do not doubt that there is a more equal distribution of happiness than we sometimes dream; still, there are differences, and those differences are very conspicuous, here and there, among Christians.

8. Still, I think a great deal more is to be said for constitutional temperament than to any of these outside things. I know some of my dear brethren who, if they were very poor, would still be happy. Indeed, I have seen them very sick and ill, but they have still been joyful. I have gone with them to the graveside, but they have rejoiced in the Lord even there. They could not help doing so; there seemed to be a fountain of joy in them, like water in a well that springs up continually. On the other hand, there are some brethren; — I will not say that there are many here; still, there are some; — who could not help grumbling wherever they might be. If they had the fat of the land on their table, it would not quite suit their appetite; they would prefer a mixture of bitter herbs. I believe that there are some Christians whom God himself will never satisfy until he takes them to heaven. They seem to have a soul that utterly disdains to be content, and shows its greatness, I suppose, in continually feeling that nothing is quite good enough for it. That is a dreadful constitution for any man to have; perhaps it is his liver that is wrong; or, more likely, his heart; but there is no doubt whatever that physical disease has a great effect on constitutional temperament; and some sad folk are rather to be pitied than to be blamed for the dark and sombre view which they take of everything around them.

9. I am inclined to think, however, that we must not lay too much stress on such things as these; but that the main difference will be discovered in another direction. Some saints have more faith than others have; and very much in proportion to their faith will be their condition of heart and mind. Such saints, having more faith than others have, will also have more zeal for God, more conscientious observance of his commands, more complete devotion to his will, more self-denying consecration to his service; and where there is much of all these things, there will be more joy than there can be in any other condition of heart and life. If you are a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, yet are slack in serving God, you shall get to heaven but you shall have very little heaven on the way there. But if your faith rests, like a trustful child, on the omnipotence and immutability of God; if you, simply and implicitly, rely on the atoning sacrifice of Christ; and, then, out of love for your Lord, are fired with a sacred devotion to be used for Christ’s glory, your peace shall be like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea. God, in his all-wise sovereignty, may send you various trials, which will cast you down; but it is according to the gracious rule of his kingdom to give the sweet reward of his presence to his obedient children. He says to us, as he did to his ancient people, “If you will walk contrary to me, then I will also walk contrary to you”; but if you walk with God as Enoch did, you shall have the joy which doubtless beamed from Enoch’s face, beaming also from yours.

10. The practical lesson of this first part of my subject is this. Do not judge yourself, dear brother or sister in Christ, by any other human being; do not say, “I cannot be a Christian, because I am not so mournful as So-and-so was.” God forbid that you should fall into such a delusion as to think that you ought to imitate any man’s miseries! Do not say, on the other hand, “I cannot be a Christian, because I do not have the joys which I have heard such an eminent saint speak of.” It would be a bad day for you if you should try to counterfeit those joys. The man who said, “I am like an owl,” and the man who said, “My youth is renewed like the eagle’s,” are both in heaven praising God. If they were two different men, both were accepted in the same Saviour, both were washed in the same precious blood, and both entered into the same everlasting glory; and you, whether you are joyful or miserable, if you are only depending on the atoning work of Jesus Christ, shall be there too, in due time, to praise the Lord for ever with them.

11. II. But now, secondly, I have to remind you that SAINTS DIFFER FROM THEMSELVES AT DIFFERENT TIMES. They are not at all times what they are sometimes.

12. I feel morally certain that David wrote both these Psalms, for there are very similar expressions in both of them. Anyone, who has studied every verse and letter of the Psalms, with diligent care, as I may rightly claim that I have done, gets to feel as if he knew the tones of David’s voice, and could tell which is Asaph’s and which is David’s; and there is, to my mind, a Davidic ring in this one hundred and second Psalm quite as surely as there is in the one hundred and third. If it is so, then it was David who said one day, “I am like an owl of the desert.” and said the day after to his own soul, concerning his God, “Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” It was the same man in different moods; and brethren, we know, from experience, that the children of God have these various moods.

13. First, notice the contrast here, — a contrast which I have verified, and so have you, if you are a child of God. Here is a man under a sense of sin; he has discovered that he is a lost soul. The arrows of God drink up the life of his spirit, and his self-righteousness is struck and withered. He cannot tolerate company and gaiety, nor even the common joys of life, so he gets away by himself, and pines, and cries, “I am like an owl of the desert.” The most dreadful verses that he can find in the book of Job, or the Lamentations of Jeremiah, exactly suit his case. This is how he talks to his God: “I have eaten ashes like food, and mingled my drink with weeping, because of your indignation and your wrath: for you have lifted me up, and cast me down.” But see what happens when the Lord Jesus Christ reveals himself to that poor guilty sinner. He looks at Christ on the cross, — it is a trembling look, and his eyes are half-blinded by his tears, and by the mists arising from his doubts and fears; but he does look to Christ, honestly and sincerely, and trusts him with his soul. Have you not seen the change that such an experience works in men? Now he is not like an owl any longer. His sin is completely forgiven; in a moment, he has passed from darkness into marvellous light, from bondage into liberty, from death to life. Now, like the eagle, he stretches his wings, and mounts aloft into the glorious sunlight. Ask him whether he is like an owl now, and he will say, “God forbid! Why should I be?”

14. See how the man walks now! Before, his feet seemed like lead; now, they appear almost as if they were winged, like the feet of the fabled messenger of the gods. Now, the man runs along the path of duty. He delights in his God; he loves him, he adores him, he triumphs in him, and boasts of the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour. All this change is sometimes accomplished in a single hour; indeed, in a single moment, the sackcloth and ashes are taken away, the loins are girded with the garments of praise, and sorrow is changed into overflowing bliss. There you have one example of the contrast between the owl and the eagle spirit.

15. And, afterwards, in the Christian life, you may see the same difference. Here is a believer in deep trouble. Christians have a promise that they shall have trouble, and that is one of the promises that God always keeps; “In the world you shall have tribulation.” Now see the Christian in the time of his tribulation; sometimes he is bowed to the very earth under it. If you want an example, look at Job, — covered with severe boils from head to foot, sitting among ashes, and scraping himself with a potsherd, his children dead, his property destroyed, his friends — the few that remained — miserable comforters to him. Watch him for a little while, until the Lord returns to him in mercy; and gives him twice as much as he had before, and “blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning.” It is often so with the people of God today. If they do not receive temporal prosperity, they get spiritual blessings that are more valuable by far; and so, up from the ashes God’s Jobs still arise; from the willows they take their harps again, and —

    Loud to the praise of love divine,
       Bid every string awake, —

because the Lord has dealt so graciously with them. So you see that the same men may be like owls in their time of trouble, and like eagles in the day of their deliverance out of it.

16. The contrast will be all the more conspicuous if you look at another picture. It is a portrait of yourself, and of myself. Do you ever sit down, and look within, and look around, and look beneath? If so, when you look within, you see imperfections, infirmities, temptations, sins. You make a long-drawn sigh, and moan, “I shall surely fall one day by the hand of the enemy. With all this combustible material in my heart, some day there will be a terrible catastrophe, and my profession of religion will be destroyed in a moment.” Possibly, you look around you. Business is not prospering; perhaps one child is sick and ill, another is deformed, another has gone out to a new job, but is not behaving well; — you have all kinds of troubles; your house is not “so” either with yourself, or with God, as you desire it to be. Then you look down; you feel that you are soon going to die; and you wonder how you will endure the pains, and groans, and dying strife. And your dear wife will be a widow, and your children fatherless. Ah! you have some more sighs, and say to yourself, “I am like a pelican of the wilderness; I am like an owl of the desert.” Of course you are, and you always will be as long as you turn your eyes inside; but when, instead of looking within, or around you, or looking down to the grave, you look up, and see Christ, the ever-living Saviour, who has passed through the grave, and now lives to die no more, you yourself will no longer dread to die, because you will know that there is to be a glorious resurrection, in which you shall share.

17. Then, you will not be like an owl of the desert any longer, but you will mount aloft, above the clouds, into the clear blue heaven of happy fellowship with the ever-blessed God, rejoicing that, in Christ Jesus, your salvation is accomplished, the everlasting covenant is signed, and sealed, and ratified, your security certain beyond all doubt, you yourself adopted into the family of God, and being made ready, in due season, to enter into the glorious abode of eternal bliss. When you understand all this, no longer will you sigh, and cry, and repine; but you will rejoice “with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” Give up the habit of looking within or around you; or if you do sometimes mourn over what you see there, even then say, with David, “Although my house is not so with God; yet he has made with me” — you can see the eagle stretching his wings there, — “yet he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure.”

18. Let me set before you another contrast. Sometimes, even good men, when they rise in the morning, get up in a humour which is anything but amiable. They go downstairs, and find their family in a condition which is anything but desirable. They go out to their business, and they find their affairs anything but pleasing. All day long, everything seems to go wrong for them, or else they go wrong with everything, which is probably the real truth. Some believers seem to like to indulge in a little comforting misery, and appear all the day long to determine to be unhappy. A certain thing, in which they are interested, has not prospered as they desired, although it has prospered far beyond what they deserve. Another thing has not happened just as they wished it might, though it has happened a good deal better than they ought reasonably to have expected. Have you ever met a brother in that condition? I have, and I have also met sisters in the same condition. I have gone to visit them, and their story, from beginning to end while I have been there, has been about their rheumatism, or about their small allowance from the church or the parish, or about their sorrow at having lost so many friends and helpers! But what a mercy it is when the sorrowful soul is helped to shake off that depression, and to say, with Habakkuk, “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no crops; the flocks shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stall: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.” This is the way to leave the owl in the desert, and to let the eagle soar upwards in his glorious flight again. Suppose we have miseries; have we not mercies also? Are Marah’s waters bitter? Then, put the cross of Christ into them, and they will be sweetened at once. Is your way rough? Yet your God leads you in it, so it must be the right way. Does it traverse a desert? Yet the manna has always fallen even there. Are you weary and foot-sore? Then remember that “there remains therefore a rest for the people of God.” Some people will always look on what they call “the black side” of things; but to faith’s eye, there is no black side, for even the dark side of God’s providential dealings with us glows with light when faith looks at it. Many people appear to take a telescope, and try to look through it into the unknown future; and, before they look, in their anxiety, they breathe on the glass, and then, as they gaze, they cry, “There are a great many clouds to be seen.” Yet, all the while, it is only their own breath that has created them. It is best for the believer to leave the future with God, to rest entirely in his purposes of love and mercy, and to march forward singing to his God, —

    What may be my future lot
    Well I know concerns me not;
    This should set my heart at rest,
    What thy will ordains is best.

19. Here is another contrast. From the one hundred and second Psalm, we learn that the believer, in his trouble, had forgotten to eat his food; but, in the one hundred and third Psalm, we are told that the believer, in his joy, has his mouth satisfied with good things. There are some people who fall into spiritual trouble through neglecting the means of grace. You say that you are very depressed in spirit, that you have lost your evidences, and are brought very low. Brother, let me ask you some personal questions. How long is it since you were at a prayer meeting? How long is it since you were at a week-night service? How long is it since you abandoned the habit of carefully reading daily a portion of God’s Word? How long is it since you enjoyed conscious fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ? I asked a Christian man — as I believe him to be, — that question, some time ago, and he shook his head, and said, “I wish you had not asked me that question; for, alas! it has been many a month since I could truly say that I have had any such fellowship.” If that is the case with any one of you, do you wonder that you are like an owl of the desert? If a child never goes to his father, to get a good word from him, is it any wonder that he doubts whether his father loves him? What wife would live in the same house with her husband, and yet never speak to him for six months at a time? It would be a shame if she did act like that; yet here are some of us, with Christ always near us, living on without speaking to him, or having fellowship with him. Well may such a person be like an owl of the desert; but let a man begin diligently to attend the means of grace, let him be much in private prayer, let him seek fellowship with Jesus, and he will soon shake off his mourning, and forget his sorrows, and he will mount up again into the clear air, like the eagles, on wings renewed by God.

20. The last point of contrast is this. The owl is a bird that is afraid of the light; it loves the darkness, and therefore it does not love the sunshine; but the eagle is not afraid of the sun, he even dares to stare into the face of the great father of day. There are also some Christians who appear to be afraid of the light. They have a little, but they do not want too much. I have heard of a good man, who would never read at family prayer that chapter about Philip and the eunuch. There is, in that chapter, a good deal of light on the subject of believers’ baptism, and that man did not want to read about it, for he was afraid of the light. Others will not read those passages, in the Epistles, which speak of election, predestination, particular redemption, final perseverance, and similar great truths that are revealed by the Holy Spirit. Such people say that these doctrines are too Calvinistic, so they do not read about them, for they do not want to see too much light. I know Christians — at least, they profess to be Christians, — who, in various matters, are like the owl of the desert; they do not like the light. But the true-born child of God wants the light; he cannot have too much of it. He delights to do his Lord’s will. He says of everything he does, “If it is not according to God’s Word, I desire to be undeceived concerning it; and if there is any truth, taught by the Holy Spirit, which I have not yet received, I desire to receive it, and to sit down humbly at Jesus’ feet, to unlearn all I know if it is wrong, and to learn whatever he would have me learn.” Let us pray to God to give us the unflinching eagle eye which is glad for the light, and to take away from us the sleepy eye of the owl, which only sees in the darkness.

21. III. My last point, for which I have only a minute or two left, is this, — ONLY THE LORD CAN CHANGE SPIRITUAL SADNESS INTO SPIRITUAL GLADNESS.

22. No hand can heal a broken heart except the divine hand that made it. The minister’s words cannot heal your wounds. Only the Holy Spirit can pour in the true balm. The ancient question was, “Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there?” The answer is, — No, there is none. There is no balm in Gilead; that is not the place to look for it. There is no physician there; if there were, the health of God’s people might be recovered. But it is not recovered in Gilead, and never will be. The only true balm comes from Calvary; the only unfailing Physician is he who has gone up to his Father’s throne, yet who hears the cry of all who call on him in truth. Only he can turn the owl into an eagle, but he can do it. He understands your case, for he has passed through an experience exactly the same as yours. He has not only walked the hospitals, — that is an essential thing for a physician to do, — but he has himself lain on the bed in the hospital. Christ took on himself our sicknesses, and bore our sorrows, and even our sins were made to meet on him when he hung on the accursed tree, as the Substitute for all who believe in him. You have, therefore, the best of physicians to heal you; so, sin-sick soul, look to him! If you have only an owl’s eyes, yet turn them to Christ, and he will change them into an eagle’s eyes. If you are only like the owl of the desert, resolve that you will see no light except his light; for, then, his light will surely soon come to you.

23. Remember, oh you mourners, that there is one Person of the ever-blessed Trinity, who has been pleased to consecrate himself to the work of comforting tried and troubled souls. Just as Christ has redeemed us, so the Holy Spirit comforts us. He is THE Comforter, the almighty Comforter. Since God himself has become the Comforter, what case of sorrow can be thought to be hopeless? Of old, the Lord said, “Just as one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; and you shall be comforted”; and our Lord Jesus Christ, after going back to heaven, has sent us the Holy Spirit to be our Comforter; and the Holy Spirit uses the very best medicine that can possibly be compounded. Do you ask, “What is that?” Christ said to his disciples, “He shall take from mine, and shall show it to you.” What medicine can ever be equal to the things of Christ? Oh poor owl of the desert, if the Spirit of God shall come and visit you, as he will, and reveal the things of Christ to your soul, you will then spread your wings, like an eagle, and mount aloft into the heavenlies in Christ Jesus!

24. With one more remark I will close my discourse. Whenever a soul is cast down by God, there is a reason for it, and that reason is love. When the Lord kills, why does he do that? When he wounds, why does he do it? Here is the reason, given in his own words, “I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal.” You must first be stripped by God if you are to be clothed by him; you must be emptied if you are to be filled; you must be uprooted if you are to be transplanted; you must become nothing if Christ is to be your All-in-all. Is this not Christ’s usual rule, that he cuts down the green tree, and makes the dry tree to flourish? The Virgin Mary truly sang, “He has filled the hungry with good things; and he has sent the rich away empty: he has put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted those of low degree.” Destitute, empty, broken, crushed, wounded, dead, — you are just the kind of people Jesus came to save. He came into the world to save sinners; to seek and to save the lost; so you, being lost, are the most suitable objects for the display of his love. I am sent to preach the gospel to the broken-hearted, to minister consolation to the afflicted and tried, and to tell about the opening of the prison to those who are bound. Not to those who are satisfied with their own righteousness, but to those who know that they are sinners, do we preach a Saviour. You, who can fall no lower than you are, unless you sink into the lowest hell, are the very people to be the objects of divine regard. Your extremity is God’s opportunity to bless you. To you, who pine, and sigh, and cry, and say, “We are like the owls of the desert,” is this message of mercy proclaimed, by the voice that sounds even in the wilderness, “ ‘Comfort, comfort my people,’ says your God. ‘Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry to her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she has received from the Lord double for all her sins.’ ” Bankrupt sinners, come and learn how all your debts have been discharged! Wounded sinners, come and be healed by the great Physician! Yes and even to you who are dead, and in your graves, the Lord says, “Live,” and you shall live, even as the Lord Jesus said to Martha, “He who believes in me, though he were dead, yet he shall live.” May the Lord grant you grace to look to Jesus, so that the owls’ eyes may now be turned into eagles’ eyes, and the owls of the desert into eagles, for Christ’s sake! Amen.

 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3565, “Sermon Theme Index” 3567 @@ "Sermons On Birds"}

Exposition By C. H. Spurgeon {Ps 102}

Kindly notice the title of this Psalm: “A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and pours out his complaint before the LORD.” I call your attention to it in order to remind you what changes there are in the life of a believer. Here, in the one hundred and second Psalm, the afflicted saint is pouring out his complaint; and then, in the one hundred and third, the rejoicing believer is blessing the Lord in a jubilant song of grateful praise. Such are a true Christian’s ups and downs, nights and days, and I can see how the one hundred and third Psalm blossoms out of the one hundred and second. When the afflicted believer can pour out his complaint before the Lord, it will not be long before he will be able to cry, “Bless the Lord, oh my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” If you carry your complaint in your own heart, or tell it to some earthly friend, you will probably continue to have a reason to complain; but if you pour out your heart before God, it will not be long before he will give you ease and relief.

1, 2. Hear my prayer, oh LORD, and let my cry come to you. Do not hide your face from me in the day when I am in trouble;

“For that would make my trouble to be unbearable.” So William Cowper sings, —

    That were a grief I could not bear,
    Didst thou not hear and answer prayer.

2. Incline your ear to me:

“Stoop down to me; bend over me; listen to the moanings of my darkness, the whispers of my weakness.”

2. In the day when I call answer me speedily.

“For I am brought so low that, if a delay is not a denial, it will be tantamount to it, for I shall be dead before the answer comes unless it reaches me speedily.”

3, 4. For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as a hearth. My heart is struck, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my food.

That is a very pitiful state for anyone to be brought into, in which the sorrow of the mind begins to weaken the strength of the body; the soul itself is so inflamed that a fever is generated within the body, which seems “burned as a hearth.”

5. By reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin.

By grief, he had brought himself down to such an emaciated state that his bones pierced through his skin.

6, 7. I am like the pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert. I watch, and am like a sparrow alone on the house-top.

He had gotten into such a melancholy state of mind that he shunned human company, sought solitude, and became as mournful a creature like “an owl of the desert.”

8-10. My enemies reproach me all day; and those who are mad against me are sworn against me. For I have eaten ashes like food, and mingled my drink with weeping, because of your indignation and your wrath: for you have lifted me up, and cast me down.

Observe that all David’s enemies could not make him weep. Mad as they were against him, they could not extort a tear from his eyes; but God’s indignation and wrath touched him to the quick, and made him mix his drink with weeping. He felt that God was treating him as wrestlers treat each other, when a man deliberately lifts up his opponent in order that he may give him all the worse fall: “You have lifted me up, and cast me down.” All the joys that he had ever known seemed to make his sorrow all the more bitter; the light of God’s countenance, in which he had formerly walked, made the darkness, in which he was enshrouded, to seem all the blacker.

11, 12. My days are like a shadow that declines; and I am withered like grass. But you, oh LORD, shall endure for ever; and your memory to all generations.

That was David’s usual way, to comfort himself in his God when he could find no comfort in himself or in his surroundings. You remember that he did so on that memorable occasion when Ziklag was burned, and the people spoke of stoning him: “David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” We shall be wise if we follow his example; for, when every other source of joy is dried up, when all earthly wells are plugged up by the Philistines, the stream of God’s mercy flows on as freely as ever.

13, 14. You shall arise, and have mercy on Zion: for the time to favour her, yes, the set time, is come. For your servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour its dust.

God is sure to bless his Church when its members take a deep interest in even the least things that pertain to God’s cause: “Your servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour its dust.” I fear that, in many churches, the set time to favour Zion has been postponed by the apathy, the lethargy, or the carelessness of many of those who profess to be the servants of God.

15, 16. So the heathen shall fear the name of the LORD, and all the kings of the earth your glory. When the LORD shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory.

It was for God’s glory for him to build up the ancient Jewish kingdom, and it is equally for his glory to build up his Church at the present time, — quarrying the stones of nature, changing them by his almighty power, polishing them, by his grace, according to the form of a palace, building them up on the one foundation, that is, Jesus Christ, laying layer upon layer until the whole structure shall be finished.

17. He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer.

There is a gracious promise for all destitute souls who cry to God.

18. This shall be written for the generation to come: and the people who shall be created shall praise the LORD.

This is written for our comfort, dear friends; there it stands permanently, in this blessed Book, that, as long as there is a destitute and tried people of God, he will not despise their prayer.

19. For he has looked down from the height of his sanctuary; the LORD beheld the earth from heaven;

As if God was looking down from the battlements of heaven, observing, watching for something; and what is it that God is looking for?

20. To hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those who are appointed to death;

Is that not a delightful view of God? — Watching, not for the music of sweet singers, nor for the noise of victorious warriors, but for “the groaning of the prisoner,” the sight of those locked up in the condemned cell, “appointed to death.”

21-23. To declare the name of the LORD in Zion, and his praise in Jerusalem; when the people are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the LORD. He weakened my strength in the way; he shortened my days.

It is most instructive to notice how the psalmist ascribes all to God, — not only his strength, but his weakness; — not merely his extended life, but even the shortening of his days. It takes away the sting from our sorrow when we know that it comes from God. It helps us to bear any apparent calamity when we feel that it is our Heavenly Father’s hand that has accomplished it all, or his will that has permitted it to happen.

24-27. I said, “Oh my God, do not take me away in the midst of my days: your years are throughout all generations. Of old you have laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of your hands. They shall perish, but you shall endure: yes, all of them shall grow old like a garment, like a vesture you shall change them, and they shall be changed: but you are the same, and your years shall have no end.

The ever-living God is our constant comfort amid the ever-changing scenes of this mortal life. Indeed, and when we come even to the border of the land of the shadow of death, this is still our joy, “The Lord lives”; for, from the midst of the throne, we hear our Saviour say, “Because I live, you shall live also,”

28. The children of your servant shall continue,

We pass away, but our children take our place. As Wesley said, “God buries his workmen, but his work goes on.” One generation passes away, but another comes in its place.

28. And their seed shall be established before you.”

Blessed be the name of the ever-living God!

Spurgeon Sermons

These sermons from Charles Spurgeon are a series that is for reference and not necessarily a position of Answers in Genesis. Spurgeon did not entirely agree with six days of creation and dives into subjects that are beyond the AiG focus (e.g., Calvinism vs. Arminianism, modes of baptism, and so on).

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Modernized Edition of Spurgeon’s Sermons. Copyright © 2010, Larry and Marion Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario, Canada. Used by Answers in Genesis by permission of the copyright owner. The modernized edition of the material published in these sermons may not be reproduced or distributed by any electronic means without express written permission of the copyright owner. A limited license is hereby granted for the non-commercial printing and distribution of the material in hard copy form, provided this is done without charge to the recipient and the copyright information remains intact. Any charge or cost for distribution of the material is expressly forbidden under the terms of this limited license and automatically voids such permission. You may not prepare, manufacture, copy, use, promote, distribute, or sell a derivative work of the copyrighted work without the express written permission of the copyright owner.

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