6Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God
Thankfulness should be the hallmark of a Christian. The lack of thankfulness shows a heart in need of mending, instruction, and direction.
Here we see that Thanksgiving is connected with prayer. We can always find something to be thankful for, no matter what may be the burden of our wants, or the special subject of our petitions. When we pray for the supply of our wants, we may be thankful for that kind providence which has hitherto befriended us; when we pray for restoration from sickness, we may be thankful for the health we have hitherto enjoyed, and for God‘s merciful interposition in the former days of trial, and for his goodness in now sparing our lives; when we pray that our children and friends may be preserved from danger and death, we may remember how often God has interposed to save them; when, oppressed with a sense of sin, we pray for pardon, we have abundant cause of thanksgiving that there is a glorious way by which we may be saved. The greatest sufferer that lives in this world of redeeming love, and who has the offer of heaven before him, has cause of gratitude.
It appears that Paul saw prayer as the fitting human response to every conceivable situation that might arise in life; and the position of this phrase at the beginning of a long clause would make it applicable throughout the clause, with the meaning that “thanksgiving” should characterize every prayer, no matter what unusual or extreme life-situation might have triggered the prayer.
Thanksgiving is the key to lasting peace. Being thankful will put you in the will of God, and put you on an upward spiral for only a truly thankful man can have joy, peace, be loving and not critical because you are not jealous nor making excuses. Give thanks to God for all things.
1The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget. That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. This is my Father’s world! The battle is not done; Jesus Who died shall be satisfied, And earth and heav’n be one.
“Though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet” This is one of if not my favorite line of this hymn. The world is dark place characterized by greed, superficiality, oppression and violence. Yet, it still belongs to God. It’s still His world and it’s not beyond redemption. Despite child slavery, genocide, tsunamis, famine and war, hostility in ways we could never imagine, He is the ruler yet.
The objective of the beginning of the psalm is to show that the Jews had nothing of themselves which could entitle them to approach nearer or more familiarly to God than the Gentiles. As God by his providence preserves the world, the power of his government is alike extended to all, so that he ought to be worshipped by all, even as he also shows to all men, without exception, the fatherly care he has about them.
This song serves as a reminder to us that the whole world belongs to God. He is the Creator of the earth, and therefore, its Proprietor; or, in other words, “the property vests in Him.” It belongs to Him in a sense somewhat similar to our right of property in anything that is the production of our hands, or of our labor or skill. We claim that as our own. We feel that we have a right to use it, or to dispose of it, as we choose. No other person has a right to take it from us, or to dictate to us how we shall employ it. Thus, God, in the highest possible sense, has a right to the earth, and to all which it produces, as being all of it the creation of His hands, and the fruit of His culture and skill. He has a right to dispose of it as He pleases; by fire, or flood, or tempest; and He has an equal right to direct man in what way He shall employ that portion of the productions of the earth which may be entrusted to Him. All the right which any person has to any portion of the earth‘s surface, or to what is treasured up in the earth, or to what it is made to produce, is subordinate to the claims of God, and all should be yielded up at His bidding, whether He comes and claims it to be employed in His service, or whether He comes and sweeps it away by fire or flood; by the locust, or by the palmer-worm.
Christ Himself promised trouble and affliction for those who sojourn on the path leading to His cross and to those who love Him and follow Him. But by that same cross, Christ has overcome the world. So, let us remember that no man possesses the earth, or any portion of it, except in a very limited and accommodating sense. The title deeds which men treasure are merely the written permission of the societies in which they live, conveying the right of use for the brief period of their earthly lives. The cattle upon a thousand hills are God’s possession, not ours. All of the earth and everything in it belong to God.
9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
Augustine said, “God is patient because He is eternal.” “He who is from everlasting to everlasting can afford to wait.”
It is not slackness, remissness, nor want of due displacence at sin, that induced God to prolong the respite of ungodly men; but His long-suffering, unwillingness that any should perish: and therefore, He spared them, that they might have additional offers of grace, and be led to repentance. It is an opportunity for them to deplore their sins, implore God’s mercy, and find redemption through the blood of the Lamb.
They probably in their mocking said, “Either God had made no such promise to judge the world, destroy the earth, and send ungodly men to perdition; or if He had, He had forgotten to fulfill it, or had not convenient time or leisure.” To some such mocking the apostle seems to refer: and he immediately shows the reason why deserved punishment is not inflicted on a guilty world.
Moreover, it is probable that the apostle here had his eye on some professing Christians who had become disheartened and impatient, and who, from the delay in regard to the coming of the Lord Jesus, and from the representations of those who denied the truth of the Christian religion, arguing from that delay that it was false, began to fear that His promised coming would indeed never occur. To such he says that it should not be inferred from His delay that He would not return, but that the delay should be regarded as an evidence of His desire that men should have space for repentance, and an opportunity to secure their salvation.
Also, the delay should be regarded as a proof of His forbearance, and of His desire that all human beings should be saved. Every sinner should consider the fact that he is not cut down in his sins, not as a proof that God will not punish the wicked, but as a demonstration that He is now forbearing, and is willing that He should have an ample opportunity to obtain eternal life. No one should infer that God will not execute His threats, unless he can look into the most distant parts of a coming eternity, and demonstrate that there is no suffering appointed for the sinner there; anyone who sins, and who is spared even for a moment, should regard the respite as only a proof that God is merciful and forbearing now.
As was noted, “The time of the end is deferred, that the number of them that are to be saved may be filled up. The idea is, that the lapse of time which intervenes before the threatening of God are executed does not arise from neglect or forgetfulness, as some men suppose, but from forbearance and long-suffering, in hope that the sinner may repent.
3Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.
It is said, Men praise, or speak well, of power, glory, honor, riches, worldly prospects and pleasures; but the truly religious speak well of God, in whom they find infinitely more satisfaction and happiness than worldly men can find in the possession of all earthly good.
Thispsalm is called “A psalm of David when he was in the wilderness of Judah.” What prayers have been prayed by men in the wilderness, by men in the darkness and mystery of life, by men in their perplexity seeking for guidance, by men whose “souls were discouraged because of the way.” What prayers from men in dungeons, from men in darkened homes, from men who said “that all God’s waves and billows had gone over them.” It has also been observed we often pray better in darkness than in light, in adversity than in prosperity; we pray then with our whole heart and we mean what we say. If you had written your prayers, and had affixed the titles, you would find the heading of one, “A prayer after I had fallen into some great sin.” It would contain the wail and lament of the heart, it would breathe the truest contrition and reveal the sorrow of a broken heart. It would be your penitential psalm. You would find another headed, “A prayer after backsliding.” In it you would see the shame and humiliation which marked your return to God, and the fresh and earnest consecration of yourself to His service.
Thy favor; thy mercy. This is of more value than life; more to be desired than life. Life is the most valued and valuable thing pertaining to this world which we can possess. See the notes at Job 2:4. But, above this, David valued the favor and friendship of God. If one or the other was to be sacrificed, he preferred that it should be his life; he would be willing to exchange that for the favor of God. Life was not desirable, life furnished no comforts – no joys – without the divine favor.
“Thy loving-kindness is better than life.” Why is loving-kindness better than life? Because it meets all the needs of life. Man has a physical nature, and its needs are met in the outward world, or it could not live. Light is for the eye–music for the ear–a thousand influences minister to the senses. Man has a higher nature; he has mind, he has capacity for thought; he has an emotional nature, a heart with boundless wealth. What is mind without culture, education, converse, literature? What is the heart without friends, relatives, love? Without loving-kindness, how little is known of life! God can come to man; lie can dwell in man; He can reveal His love to man. The mind has life only in receiving truth. The heart has life only in love. You have life only in God. There is a sense in which the loving-kindness of God is so much better than life that it even reconciles us to the loss of life. We are delivered from the fear of death. “To die is gain.” So, shall we, divesting ourselves of the mortal, become immortal. Indeed, God’s loving kindness is by far better than life and there is no comparison!
12Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
It is said, the corruption of human nature is the primary cause of all the particular evils that prevail in the heart or life. To this polluted fountain all the streams of iniquity must be traced. It is the ocean of depravity in the heart that, by its swelling tides, fills so many distinct channels.
This exhortation implies that we are in great danger of being negligent. The power of sin in our hearts, the temptations of Satan, and the influence of the world, are all evidences of the danger we are in of rejecting Christ.
These words denote the necessity of knowing our natural state as under the dominion of sin. It is not said, “Take heed lest there enter into your hearts any motion of unbelief,” as if it were a thing that had no root within us, a habit to be contracted by imitation, or by a course of iniquity. But, take heed lest there be in any of you a heart of unbelief; as plainly declaring that this is natural to every man, and that it is so as denominating his whole heart.
An evil, unbelieving heart. The word “unbelief” is used to qualify the word “heart,” by a Hebraism, a mode of speech that is common in the New Testament. An unbelieving heart was the cause of “their” apostasy, and what worked their ruin will produce ours. The root of their evil was “a want of confidence in God” and this is what is meant here by a heart of unbelief. The great difficulty on earth everywhere is a “want of confidence in God” and this has produced all the ills that man has ever suffered. It led to the first apostasy; and it has led to every other apostasy and will continue to produce the same effects to the end of the world. The apostle says that this heart of unbelief is “evil.” Men often feel that it is a matter of little consequence whether they have faith or not, provided their conduct is right; and hence, they do not see or admit the propriety of what is said about the consequences of unbelief in the Scriptures.
It is important for us to understand and know that all men (every person) are naturally disposed to reject the testimony of God because they ate born in sin. Therefore, all without distinction are called children of disobedience, or of unbelief.
We need to take warning by those disobedient Israelites; they were brought out of the house of bondage, and had the fullest promise of a land of prosperity and rest. By their disobedience they came short of it, and fell in the wilderness. We have been brought from the bondage of sin, and have a most gracious promise of an everlasting inheritance among the saints in light; through unbelief and disobedience they lost their rest, through the same we may lose ours. An evil heart of unbelief will head away from the living God. What was possible in their case, is possible in ours.
St. Mark 7: 6 (KJV) 6He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.
Commitment is an act, not just something you have spoken. Unless commitment is made there are only promises and hopes, but no plans. Christian commitment is the spiritual act of living out what you say you believe.
The Scripture to which Jesus here referred is Isaiah 29:13. Jesus charged his critics with two violations of God’s law: (1) they were hypocrites, pretending a piety they did not have, affirming a love of God they did not have, and voicing a religious concern which was non-existent within them; (2) they had substituted the precepts of men for the word of God..
Matthew postpones the following citation and application of the prophecy of Isaiah, to the account of the command of God being broken by the tradition of Corban; which Mark makes the answer of Christ to begin with: well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites; which in Matthew is read, “ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you”, Matthew 15:7; to the same sense as here: for the prophecy of Isaiah not only described the hypocrites of his time, but had respect chiefly to the Jews in succeeding ages, in the times of Christ, and both before and after; when they would, as they did, greatly degenerate, and lost the power and spirituality of religion, and had only the form of it; left the word of God for the traditions of men, and were given up to great stupidity, and to judicial blindness: hence the Apostle Paul refers to a passage in the same chapter, Isaiah 29:10, and applies it to the Jews in his time, Romans 11:8
In the Prophet Isaiah more is said than is here cited; and so in Matthew more is produced, and the whole is there expressed thus: “this people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me”, Matthew 15:8, they presented their bodies before the Lord in the synagogues, or in the temple, and prayed to him with an air of devotion and fervency, and offered up their praises to him, for their external privileges and blessings; but, alas! this was all lip labour; there was no lifting up their hearts, with their hands, unto God; these were not united to fear his name, but were distracted in his worship, and carried away from him to other object
As clearly as Christ could have stated it, the principle is laid out here that the worship of God which consists in the observance of human precepts and traditions is vain and useless. Thus, the question of overwhelming importance regarding the worship of God must ever be the question of authority. Would not Jesus say the same thing of many so-called Christian observances of our own times? Are not the traditions and precepts of men the principal guidelines that men follow? Where has God ever commanded all of the things that people are doing in the name of His holy religion?
It costs to be faithful. It cost Abraham the yielding up of his only son. It cost Esther to risk her own life. It cost Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego being put into a fiery furnace. It cost Stephen death by stoning. It cost Paul his life. Does it cost you anything to be faithful to your Lord and King? What has or will cost you?
Matthew 22: 37–KJV 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is a subject of the greatest importance (loving God above all), and should be well understood, as our Lord shows that the whole of true religion is comprised in thus loving God and our neighbor.
Jesus’ answer is far more than a clever summary of all the commandments. It is the fundamental commandment underlying the whole economy of redemption. Above everything else, God desires and commands his human children to love him totally and completely. That is why Christ came. That is the purpose God had in saving man, that the Father might be loved for his own blessed sake. Such a plea for love was lost upon people like the Pharisees. A bleeding child might have pleaded for the affection of a mad dog with the same results!
In a technical sense, all the law and prophets do hang on the twin injunctions Christ named before the Pharisees. The first five words of the Decalogue deal with man’s relation to God, and the second five have to do with man’s relationship to men. The fifth commandment might go in either group. A profoundly significant deduction required by Christ’s words on that occasion is that man’s heavenward duties are more important, ranking higher, than his man-ward duties. The first commandment is to love the Lord; the second is to love thy neighbor. This, of course, is utterly different from the prevailing concept that lays great stress on human obligations such as “Thou shalt not kill,” etc., but makes the other class of religious obligations secondary.
But what is implied in loving God with all the heart, soul, mind, strength, etc., and when may a man be said to do this? It is said that he who loves God with all his heart, who loves nothing in comparison of him, and nothing but in reference to him: it is he who is ready to give up, do, or suffer any thing in order to please and glorify him: – who has in his heart neither love nor hatred, hope nor fear, inclination, nor aversion, desire, nor delight, but as they relate to God, and are regulated by him
It now appears from this summary that, in the commandments of the Law, God does not look at what men can do, but at what they ought to do; since in this infirmity of the flesh it is impossible that perfect love can obtain dominion, for we know how strongly all the senses of our soul are disposed to vanity. Lastly, we learn from this, that God does not rest satisfied with the outward appearance of works, but chiefly demands the inward feelings, that from a good root good fruits may grow. The famous song how deep is your love pales in comparison to what Christ is telling us we need to do! The real question is, ‘how deep is YOUR love for God?
Psalm 73: 25 (KJV) 25Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.
The Christian, by nature, differs not at all from those who are still in darkness. He once chose the world as the portion in which his soul delighted, but now he renounces it as sincerely as he ever loved it. [He does not indeed treat it with stoical indifference. He knows that wealth and honor are capable of important uses, and that, if God bestow them, they may be richly enjoyed [1 Timothy 6:17.]. But he is well assured that they are not a satisfying portion: he is persuaded that our cares increase with our possessions Ecclesiastes 5:11.], and that Solomon’s testimony respecting the world is true [Ecclesiastes 2:11.].
This evil and deceitful world promises happiness to its votaries; and men, naturally carnal, are too willing to be deceived by it. Even the godly themselves are sometimes drawn aside by its delusions; but when the snare is broken, they see, and lament their folly [ver. 22.]. David contrasted the mirth of the wicked with the troubles he had to conflict with, and was ready to conclude that they had a better portion than himself [ver. 3, 4, 5, 10, 12, 13, 14.]; but on deeper investigation he found, that their happiness was soon to end [ver. 17–20.]. Whereas, however difficult his path at present was, God would guide him safely to the regions of eternal felicity.
Here the psalmist is saying literally, “Who is to me in the heavens?” That is, there is no one there that in my love for him can be compared with thee; no one who can do for me what thou canst do; no one who can meet and satisfy the needs of my soul as thou canst; no one who can be to me what God “is” – what a God “must” be. After all my complaining and my doubts there is no one, not even in the heavens, who can supply the place of “God,” or be to me what God is; and the warm affections of my soul, therefore, are “really” toward him. I feel my need of him; and I must and do find my supreme happiness in him. What would even heaven be to me without God? who there, even of the angels of light, could supply the place of God?
There are many things on earth desirable, as riches, health, friends, food, raiment, &c. but not to be compared with God and Christ, and the blessed Spirit; with the love of God, the grace of Christ, and the communion of the Holy Ghost; there are none to be loved and delighted in as they, nor anything so desirable as fellowship with them: or “with thee I desire not the earth”; the whole world, and all things in it, are nothing in comparison of God; if a man was possessed of the whole of it, and had no interest in the Lord, he would be miserable; and if he has an interest in him, he has enough without it; for all things are his, God is all in all; wherefore he is willing to leave all, and be with him forever.
The Psalmist shows more distinctly how much he had profited in the sanctuary of God; for being satisfied with him alone, he rejects every other object, except God, which presented itself to him. The form of expression which he employs, when he joins together an interrogation and an affirmation, is quite common in the Hebrew tongue, although harsh in other languages. As to the meaning, there is no ambiguity. David declares that he desires nothing, either in heaven or in earth, except God alone, and that without God, all other objects which usually draw the hearts of men towards them were unattractive to him. And, undoubtedly, God then obtains from us the glory to which he is entitled, when, instead of being carried first to one object, and then to another, we hold exclusively by him, being satisfied with him alone. If we give the smallest portion of our affections to the creatures, we in so far defraud God of the honor which belongs to him. And yet nothing has been more common in all ages than this sacrilege, and it prevails too much at the present day. How small is the number of those who keep their affections fixed on God alone! We see how superstition joins to him many others as rivals for our affections. While the Papists admit in word that all things depend upon God, they are, nevertheless, constantly seeking to obtain help from this and the other quarter independent of him. Others, puffed up with pride, have the effrontery to associate either themselves or other men with God. On this account we ought the more carefully to attend to this doctrine, that it is unlawful for us to desire any other object besides God.
12Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
It is said there is a joy in God’s salvation. Salvation itself, so far as it consists in a state of safety and acceptance, is equal in all believers; the joyful persuasion of it is not equal in all, being dealt out in various degrees by the free Spirit of God, and, on some occasions, even entirely taken away for a time.
Here we find the psalmist crying out to God, ‘Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation’. He was literally saying in his desperate plea, “Cause the joy of thy salvation to return.” This implies that he had formerly known what was the happiness of being a friend of God, and of having a hope of salvation. That joy had been taken from him by his sin. He had lost his peace of mind. His soul was sad and cheerless. Sin always produces this effect. The only way to enjoy religion is to do that which is right; the only way to secure the favor of God is to obey his commands; the only way in which we can have comforting evidence that we are his children is by doing that which shall be pleasing to him: 1 John 2:29; 3:7, 3:10. The path of sin is a dark path, and in that path neither hope nor comfort can be found.
He asks that God would clear away his sorrows as well as his sins, make once again a happy man of him; so that he may not only rise up from the ground on which he has fallen and go on his heavenly way, but, like the Ethiopian convert in the desert, go “on his way rejoicing.” “Make me to hear joy and gladness,” he says in Psalms 51:8, and here he prays, “Restore unto me thejoy of Thy salvation.” “Pardon,” we should have said to David at this time, “is all that you must now dare to ask, pardon and renewed sanctification.” “No,” says David, “there is healing in my God for sinners such as I am, as well as pardon; there is comfort in Him for even men like me. I see them in Him, and I will ask them of Him. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation.”
We lose the joy (not salvation itself) by lack of cultivation. We know that we may sow a seed or plant a tree, but unless these are watered and cultivated, they will die. Christian joy must be cultivated by prayer, praise, and growth in grace. The joy is also loss by indulgence in sin, God will withdraw from the sinner, and then the” sunshine ceases. Moreover, we loose it by our lack of faith. We often blame circumstances, etc., as we fall into the slough, when it is our own doubts that are shutting out the light. No one can rejoice who does not trust. Confidence is the root of peace and doubt the handmaid of torment.
However, whenever there is departure from God, in direct proportion as it prevails, there is a tendency to lessen the believer’s joy. The Word is not what it once was to you; sermons are not what they once were to you; fellowship with the people of God is not what it once was to you. You have secret prayer, but it is not what it once was to you. There is a want of sweetness, there is a want of substance, there is a want of fruitfulness, there is a want of realization in your religion. Look well to it, for there must be a cause–some sin, some neglected duty, some worldly conformity. The soul recognized that its loss involves the displeasure of God. Hence the petition so earnestly urged. It is the Divine anger that takes away the joy. This is a greater sorrow to the Christian than his own loss. No wonder that the psalmist seeks for restoration. It would do us well to do likewise when this happens. The joy of a sufficient and final answer to the self-upbraiding of a guilty soul. “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord,” etc. (Romans 7:25; 8:1-4; 8:33-39). The burden falls off; the darkness is chased by dawn
8For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.
The former verse denies that we live or die to ourselves; by inference, therefore, we live or die to Christ. But this verse makes the assertion directly which was implied in the other.
Both in life and death we ought to serve God, and endeavor to promote His glory. The end of the verse draws that conclusion. Whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. Not only are we the Lord’s in giving our life at His command, but we are the Lord’s in the state of separation between soul and body. Be reminded that our bodies are the Lord’s, and will be preserved by Him till the resurrection, when in glory they shall be given back to us; and our souls, in the presence of God, will have happiness and glory till that period shall arrive.
Paul had already written that “neither life nor death” could separate the believer from the Lord (Romans 8:38), and here again is the same thought in other words. Life has many tedious and toilsome duties, but everything the child of God does is done in service to the Lord. In New Testament times, even such a thing as slave labor was discharged with that in view (Ephesians 6:6-8). What a golden glory this shed upon all life’s prosaic sands! What a silver lining this bestows upon every cloud. Even death itself here appears in a new dimension, for Christians are the Lord’s even in death. Paul himself lived in daily contemplation of death, living a life that was constantly threatened and in jeopardy every hour. Enemies without and within, perilous travels, serpents, shipwrecks, robbers, and plots of murder made danger his daily bread; but here surfaces the secret spring of his life’s overflowing optimism and the source of his granite endurance. He was the Lord’s, not merely in life, but in death as well. Every child of God may claim the same legacy.
By the word unto, live unto the Lord, Paul embodies the relation between these three great elements. Live, he says, and perform all your duties to society and to one another; and the way to do so is to live unto the Lord. You are to live with men, for men, but with your thoughts reaching out unto God. These real personal relations between your individual soul and God are not to be sacrificed to your duties to one another. It is important that we know and understand that we cannot live as Paul bids us to live, until we live unto God, with our eyes and thoughts and prayers turned to Him.
The solidity of the bond of possession which unites the believer to the Lord, rests on his side on the subjective fact of faith, but on the Lord’s side on an objective fact which nothing can shake: the sovereignty of the glorified Christ, in virtue of which He evermore controls the contrast between life and death. We live to do his will, and to promote his glory. This is the grand purpose of the life of the Christian. Other people live to gratify themselves; the Christian to do those things which the Lord requires. By “the Lord” here the apostle evidently intends the Lord Jesus, as it is evident from Romans 14:9; and the truth taught here is, that it is the leading and grand purpose of the Christian to do honor to the Savior. It is this which constitutes his special character, and which distinguishes him from other people. Consider how a real living obedience to the command to live unto the Lord would affect our lives here in our present society. Let us live to please God and not man!