A Page From A Royal Diary
“Look You upon me and be merciful to me, as You used to do to those who love Your name.”
PERHAPS YOU noticed, while I was reading, that during the writing of several of the verses, David occupied himself with the praises of God’s Word. He kept to that point, extolling with all his might those Scriptures in which God had spoken to his heart, but he could not go on long without prayer. If these meditations were written in his pocketbook, day by day, it is noteworthy that although he fervently praises the Word of God, yet he also frequently breaks out into prayer. However the child of God may occupy his mind–and he very properly employs it in many holy occupations–yet he often turns to prayer, for he cannot live without it. Well does Montgomery say–
“Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath,
The Christian’s native air.”
We must pray. Brothers and Sisters, we are bound to praise God for all His goodness. We cannot help bearing testimony to His faithfulness and His Truth. We are delighted to engage in all acts of holy service, but, in addition to all that, we must pray. Prayer is a sine qua non with us–we continually come back to that sacred exercise, for, without it, we are nothing and can do nothing. Therefore, again I say, we must pray.
Notice, also, how brief David’s prayer is, and yet how full of matter! I believe that very often, the longer the prayer is, the less there is in it, and that the best prayers that were ever prayed have usually been the shortest. An arrow may easily be too long and prayers should be like arrows shot from the bow of faith. If they are short, it does not matter, as long as they are sharp and went on their way with a good pull of the bowstring. The first petition, here, is very short, but very full–“Look You upon me.” The words are few, but the sense is deep, as I shall have to show you. Oh, that we all spoke with greater freshness and naturalness in prayer–that we had no thought about keeping on with fine language, but great anxiety as to holding on with a firm grip of wrestling, pleading prayer!
The whole of our text is but short, yet it contains much more meaning than I can bring out to you in this one discourse. I want to call your attention to four things in it. First, David’s brief petition–“Look You upon me.” Secondly, his humble confession (it is not given in so many words, but it lies hidden away like the perfumed violet beneath the green leaves)–“Be merciful unto me,” which is a virtual confession of sin. Thirdly, his tacit profession, for he says, “as You used to do unto those that love Your name,” which is tacitly saying that he loves God’s name, or else he could not pray the Lord to deal with him as He used to do with such people. And, fourthly–and here I shall enlarge somewhat–his gracious aspiration. The highest, loftiest wish that David had was that God would deal with him as He was accustomed to do unto those that love His name. He did not want to fare either better or worse than the rest of the Lord’s family, so he boldly prayed, “Look You upon me, and be merciful unto me, as You used to do unto those that love Your name.”
- To begin with, here is, in our text, DAVID’S BRIEF PETITION–“Look You upon me.”
I think that these words came to David’s mouth from his heart and that he prayed, “Look You upon me,” because his own eyes had failed him. Turn to the 123 rd verse. If you look at it, you will see that one thing in a saint may suggestanother. In that verse he wrote, “My eyes fail,” and in our text he says, “Look You upon me. Lord, when I feel as if I could not look at You, do You look at me! My eyes fail me. I have washed them out with rivers of water, I have flooded them with fountains of grief. Unbelief has come in. I cannot see as I would–the dust of the world and the smoke of care have dimmed my eyes–I seem to grow blind, my Lord, and though I would always look at You and never take my eyes off You, yet my eyes fail me!” In such a case as that, it is so sweet to pray to God, “Look You upon me.”
Brothers and Sisters, there is great virtue in our looking to Christ–it is the way of salvation! What virtue, then, must there be in Christ’s love-gaze upon us! A faith-look at the blood of Jesus gives us peace, but, as I always remind you, it is God’s sight of the blood that brings us salvation. Did He not say to Moses and Aaron, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you”?–
“When your eyes of faith are dim
Still trust in Jesus, sink or swim.”
When you cannot see your God, still say with poor Hagar, “You God see me.” Jehovah is the all-seeing One–remember that and be comforted. If your eyes are put out, His eyes can never be blinded–still does He look upon you with compassion and see you with His eyes of Grace. Again I say, Lord, if ever I should forget to look to You, or if ever I should be in such a state of despondency that I cannot look up to You, look You upon me!
Next, notice that man’s eyes had misjudged David. I think the Psalmist’s prayer is to be read in this light, that he had been condemned and persecuted by the ungodly and he was evidently under the oppression of man as we noticed in reading the 134 th verse–“Deliver me from the oppression of man.” Men had misconstrued his words and misrepresented him,so now he says, “Lord, look You upon me! Whenever evil men look at me, they look with disapproval–they do not see what should be seen, but they see a great deal that is not really there. Lord, I know what they say of me, but You look upon me!” It has fallen to the lot of many of us to pass under the censure of men and the cure for that censure is to cry, “Lord, look You upon me.” Mr. Blind-Man, the foreman of the Vanity Fair jury that condemned Christian’s brother, Faithful, said, “I see clearly that this man is a heretic.” And the blinder bad men are, the more fault they can see in God’s people, even when there is nothing of evil to be seen! They will make it up if they cannot find it and they will swear to it even if they know that it is not so. It is not for a child of God to battle with them about the matter, but to turn his eyes to the Lord who is our only Judge and, with David, to pray, “Look You upon me.”
Again, do you not think it was this that made the Psalmist pray in this way? He knew that God’s eyes perceive what His servant needs. David opened his mouth and panted–he knew he needed something, but he hardly knew what it was! At times we do not know how to word our prayers because our sense of need is so very great. It seems idle to ask for one thing when we need everything! When we are quite emptied out, we scarcely know where to begin, and when our case is very puzzling and perplexing, we cannot tell what to ask for when we come to the Throne of Grace. That is a sweet thought, “You, my heavenly Father, know what things I have need of before I ask for them!” Prayer is not for God’s information, but for our instruction! We need to be made to learn what our needs are, but God always knows them. It is a very blessed thing, when we cannot tell what our needs are, to utter such a prayer as this, “Look You upon me, O Lord! You will see what I need. You will see wherein I fail. You will see how I struggle. You will see what I suffer. Lord, look You upon me!”
This is also, to my mind, such a lovely and God-honoring prayer because it leaves all with God. David does not say what he thinks the Lord should do. When prayer dictates to God, it has gone beyond its lawful bounds and it is not, then, proper prayer. But the Psalmist prays, “Lord, look You upon me.” When he was very sick, he did not say, “Lord, heal me,” but he prayed, “Lord, look You upon me.” An ordinary physician’s look, alone, is not worth much, but one glance of the Great Physician’s eyes is sufficient to cure all the maladies of the heart! We need the earthly physician’s hand and his medicine and, possibly, the surgeon’s knife. Ah, but we get everything in a look from our Lord!
When Jesus turned and looked upon Peter, did He preach a sermon? He did a great deal more than that! Did He rebuke the liar? He did a great deal more than that! Did He draw the wanderer back to Himself? He did a great deal more than that! Oh, nobody knows how much lies in one look of the eyes of God! Let us, each one, present this prayer tonight–“Lord, here is my case. I do not understand it–I know what I would like–but I am not sure whether it would be right for me to ask for it. I put myself before You–look You upon me. I sit, like the blind man by the wayside, and all I ask is that You will but turn Your face this way and see me where I am, and see what I am. And if You will but do that, do what else You please. I will not dictate to You as to what You should do. I will leave myself and my affairs entirely in Your hands–only look You upon me.”
I think David also meant this petition, “Look You upon me,” in the sense in which we sang just now–
“Look upon me, Lord, I pray You,
Let Your Spirit dwell in mine!”
In this sense, God’s look will be a sign of Divine favor. Frequently, in Scripture, God is represented as turning His face away in anger. But when He looks towards His chosen ones, it is in love. Brothers and Sisters, is there anything under Heaven more delightful than to be loved by God and to know it? The love of God, in itself, is inexpressibly sweet, but if you do not apprehend it, it is a sea of sweetness of which you do not taste, or like a mountain of honey to which you cannot gain access! But oh, to be loved of God and to know it would make a man dance if he were in chains! It would turn a dungeon into a palace if the poor prisoner were sure that God loved him! And that is precisely what David means when He prays, “Look You upon me..” “…Make Your face shine upon Your servant.” Do you see men scowling, and do you hear them howling? What does it all matter? God is smiling and that is an end to all the oppression of man! One sun soon puts an end to all the darkness. One glimpse of God’s smiling, reconciled, eternally-loving face, drives away all sorrow from the Believer’s heart! The Psalmist’s prayer, “Look You upon me,” means just that.
I think, too, that David meant one thing more, that is, that God’s look could prepare him for future obedience. When David said to the Lord, “Look You upon me,” he meant, “Look at me and see that I am armed for the fight against evil. O Lord, look me up and down, search me all over and see that I do not lack any necessary thing! Look at me inside and outside. Look at my brain, look at my heart, look You upon me to see that there is nothing omitted that will be necessary for my future conduct in the world, in the Church, in the household, or alone with You!”
Does not the Psalmist mean all that I have said? And did I not speak truly when I told you that this little prayer, “Look You upon me,” has much more in it than I can draw out of it in a single discourse? I advise you to pray it as it is, with all the meanings packed away in it–“Look You upon me.” God help you to do so!
II. Our next division is DAVID’S HUMBLE CONFESSION. It is not actually expressed in words, but it is hidden away in his next utterance–“Be merciful unto me.”
The Psalmist’s confession is the link between his first prayer and this second supplication. His prayer grew out of this confession. He prayed to the Lord, “Look You upon me,” because he could not, himself, look to God. And then he added this petition because he realized his need of Divine mercy. “Be merciful unto me.” Do you remember the Savior’s parable, or the fact the Savior described when He said, “Two men went up into the Temple to pray. One of them, the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto Heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner’”? Surely David, long before that story was told, was acting it out! He dared not look up to God. He could not look up, or he would not have prayed, “Look You upon me.”
Then he cried, “Be merciful unto me.” By this petition he evidently sought forgiveness. Mercy is only for guilty people. Favor may be for the miserable, but mercy is for the guilty. One said, the other day, “Oh, I am such a great sinner!” And a wise person, who stood by, said, “I am glad to hear you admit it.” “Oh,” answered the other, “but I am lost.” “It is so,” responded the friend, “and I am pleased to hear you confess it.” “And why are you so pleased? It sounds rather cruel to be glad because I am a sinner, and pleased because I am lost.” “Ah,” said the wise Christian instructor, “but Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. He, Himself, said, ‘the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.’” There would be nobody to receive mercy if nobody were guilty! Oh, that you might all feel, whether you are saints or sinners, that the language of the text suits you! “Be merciful unto me.” “Oh,” said one, “I do not think I have been as guilty as some.” Nevertheless, there is no way to Heaven but one–and that way is open for the vilest as well as the most moral. “Be merciful unto me,” is the prayer you must learn to pray if you hope to enter the Kingdom of God!
It is evident, also, that upon this ground, alone, the Psalmist sought for the blessing he desired–“Look You upon me, and be merciful unto me.” Do you see what he means? “Lord, I do not expect a look from You except as a proof of Your mercy. If You only give me a glance of Your eyes, it will be a token of mercy.” If we get a crumb from God’s table, it is a mercy. If we get a promise out of His Word, it is a mercy–if we get anything from the Lord it is a mercy–but if we receive forgiveness of sin, what a mercy that is! Did you ever try to fathom the depth of mercy that lies in the forgiveness of a single sin? There are some sins in our lives which will always be remembered by us. That night when you gave way to that one particular fit of temper which led to that one dreadful act of sin, has God forgiven that? Ah, yes, for “all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men.” When you cannot forgive yourself, yet you may know that God has, for Christ’s sake, forgiven you. You may have all the more pleasure in knowing that He has forgiven you because you cannot forgive yourself. That sin which overwhelms you and lays you in the very abyss as you remember it–that is the sin God delights to pardon! What a blessing it is that it is so, that we are able to assure you that, “He delights in mercy,” and especially in this particular form of mercy, the blotting out of sin! After David had sinned with Uriah’s wife, or after other great transgressions, this prayer was especially suitable, “Be merciful unto me.”
There I will leave this part of my subject, but I pray God the Holy Spirit not to leave it, but to lay it home to some hearts here. People are getting ready for Whitsuntide–some will be going into the country, and others are obliged to keep their shops open late before the holidays–therefore we are fewer in number, here, than usual, but I have been wondering whether God does not intend to save somebody who has come in here, tonight, because it is the holiday season? The Lord grant that it may be so! What can be more appropriate to you who are conscious of guilt and groaning under the heavy burden of sin, than that you should pray these two petitions of David’s supplication–“Look You upon me, and be merciful unto me”?
III. The third point, upon which I will not detain you long, is DAVID’S TACIT PROFESSION. There is, again, hidden away, here, not uttered in words, but secretly implied, a profession of love for the Lord–“Look You upon me, and be merciful unto me, as You used to do unto those that love Your name”
If the Psalmist does not actually declare that he loves God’s name, he does at least say, “Lord, put me down among them that love Your name. Count me with them. I want to love Your name, O Lord; therefore, treat me as You treat them!”–
“With them numbered may I be,
Now, and through eternity!”
David hardly dares to say that He loves God’s name, but he does practically say it by praying that God will treat him as He treats those who do love His name. Some of those who love God best are not the loudest in proclaiming their love. I believe there are some, here, who would die for Christ if it were necessary, yet they have not had the courage to come out and confess Him. I heard of a good woman who was afraid to testify before the Church, of her faith in Christ. As she was going away, she turned round and said to the minister, “I cannot speak about my faith, Sir, but I would die for Christ.” “Come back,” he said, “come back! That confession is better than any other sort of speaking.”
There have been some, in the time of the martyrs, who have been very loud in their professions, but they have recanted at the last–while others, who have been very timid have been the bravest of all when the burning day came. I remember that one martyr, when chained to the stake with two others, slipped down from under the chain and was hidden by the firewood some two or three minutes. All thought he had recanted, but he came back and placed himself in the chains, again, and stood up boldly to be burned to death. He said to a Brother at his side, “I lost sight of my Lord’s face, and I could not stand there to burn until I had found Him, again. He has come to me so sweetly and now, by His Grace, I shall die like a man.”
If we have Christ with us, how strong we are! But if He is not with us, we are weakness itself! I cannot, therefore, condemn those who are afraid to say very boldly that they love the Lord’s name. I hope, however, that they will have the courage, at any rate, to slip in edgeways and sandwich themselves between some other Believers, and say in the words of the text, “Be merciful unto me, as You used to do unto those that love Your name.”
But the true child of God does love his Lord’s name. What does that mean? He loves God’s name, that is, he loves the Person of God. He loves God! His heart goes out towards the infinitely glorious Jehovah. He loves the Character of God. There are a great many, nowadays, who want Jehovah to be improved upon. When they read of the God of Holy Scripture, they do not like Him–they say they want a kinder and more tender God. These are the men who worship the gods of modern thought–gods newly come up which are more like the devil than the true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob–the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! But the true child of God loves God as he finds Him and as he finds Him in Holy Scripture–the one living and true God who made all things, and by whom all things consist. This is the God we love, adore and worship!
The genuine child of God also loves God’s Revelation. That is often what is meant by the expression, “His name.” He who is right with God loves every Doctrine of the Scriptures and every part of that Doctrine. He does not try to alter and improve the Scriptures, nor to prepare an addendum to the Word of God–he loves the Revelation given to us in the name of God and loves every point of it. By the, “name,” is sometimes meant the Glory of God. I trust that the very feeblest of us can say that we love the Glory of God. When we hear Him praised, our hearts are all aglow. When we hear anything that is said against Him, our indignation burns vehemently, for we love His name. Oh, that God would grant us Grace to love Him far more than we do!
I must not say more on this point, for I have only a little time left, and I need that for the last division of my discourse.
IV. Fourthly, we are to consider DAVID’S GRACIOUS ASPIRATION. What he asks is that God would be merciful to him as He is accustomed to be to those who love His name. That is our aspiration, too–I trust we want God to deal with us as He deals with the rest of His people.
Notice, here, that David would be dealt with as saints have always been dealt with. If God treats us as He treats His children, I think we may be perfectly satisfied. There was a time when, if anybody had said to me, “The Lord will put you among His children and treat you as one of them,” I would have been ready to dance for joy! And I do not run back, today, from the solemn conviction that if He will only treat me as He treats the rest of His family, I shall be perfectly satisfied. How is that? How does the Lord deal with His children?
Well, you know what He used to do to those who loved His name. He used to come and visit them. For instance, there were Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These all had visits from the Lord, as did Moses, when God was in the burning bush. In olden days, God could be found in the desert or in a bush. He came to His people by the brook side, by the river, in the fiery furnace and in the lions' den. And it is still the use and habit of God to visit His people! Did He ever visit you? Pray that He may visit you as He used to do to those who loved His name. Lord, come and visit me under a tree, as You met Abraham! Come and meet me beneath the city wall as You met Joshua of old! Come to the river’s brink, as You came to Ezekiel by the river of Chebar! Come to the lonely island, as you did to John in Patmos!
God not only used to visit those who loved His name, but He used to instruct them. What teachings they had from Him! What revelations and manifestations of Himself! Lord, teach me as You used to teach those who loved Your name!
How patient, also, He was with them! They had many faults and failings–and they grieved His Holy Spirit–but He forgave them and went on teaching them! And when they fell and wandered from Him, He restored them and brought them back.
Then you know, dear Brothers and Sisters, the Lord was always faithful to those who loved His name. When He made them a promise, He always kept it. He said He would meet them, and He did. He said that He would help them, and He did. He said that He would strengthen them, and He did. He said that He would give them victory, and He did. He never was a liar to them–He never left them in need. By the mouth of His servant, Jeremiah, He asked, “Have I been a wilderness unto Israel?” He never broke a single condition of His Covenant, so I think we can, each one, pray, “Lord, look You upon me, and be merciful unto me, as You used to do unto those that love Your name!”
But notice this, also, the Lord used to whip them when they needed it! Those who loved His name were chastened. Asaph said, “All the day long have I been plagued and chastened every morning.” Well, suppose you should have the same treatment? You can thank God that He is doing to you as He used to do to those who loved His name! If He had a child of His who was strong, He used to try and test him. If he was brave, He made him fight. If he was vigorous, He made him bear burdens. You will always find that, in proportion to the strength the Lord gives, so He sets the trial. That is how He used to do to those who loved His name.
You cannot tell how it has comforted me, sometimes, when it has been said to me, “You are reproached.” “Very well,” I say to myself, “that is how the Lord used to allow it to be done to those who loved His name.” “But you have lost your reputation through standing up for the Truth of God.” “Yes,” I answer, “that is how it used to be done to those who loved God’s name. That is the way His servants have always gone to Glory.” You can go to Hell with a whole skin if you wish to do so, but you must go to Heaven with many a bruise and gash. If you would be faithful to the Lord, you must expect to be despised–but take it all as part of the lot that belongs to you and do not quarrel with it. Do you expect to be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease? I should be sorry to see you trying such a plan of going to Heaven, for that is not how the Lord used to do to those who loved His name! Do you expect to go all the way to Heaven, clapped and applauded by an eager throng, crying, “Well done”? Is that how He used to do unto those who loved His name? Far from it! Therefore, be satisfied if God deals with you as He used to do with those who loved His name.
I think, also, that when using these words, David meant that He was quite willing that God should deal with him in His usual way, in His regular order. He did not want to have some special railway thrown up for him in which he could ride first-class to Heaven, but he was willing to go the old way, the way the holy Prophets went, and the saints, and martyrs, and confessors of God! That is to say, he did not want salvation without holiness. He did not want justification without sanctification. He did not want pardon without regeneration. He asked God to do with him as He used to do with those who loved His name and, with them, you know, the water and the blood always went together–they had the new heart as well as the new robe. Acceptance in the Beloved did not come without there also being an acceptableness of holy character given by the Spirit of God.
Next, David did not want profit without exertion. He was not one of those who said, “I want to be happy, but never to do anything. I want to take the promises, but to have no part in Christian service. I want to understand without reading the Scriptures. I want to be taught and comforted without coming to hear sermons–I want to lie down and sleep myself into Glory.” No, He was willing that God should do with him as He used to do unto those who loved Him.
David did not expect to have answers without prayer. The Lord Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” We should be willing to have it as it was done to those who loved the Lord’s name. David said, “Look You upon me and be merciful unto me, as You used to do unto those that love Your name.” Some of our Churches expect prosperity without Prayer Meetings and hope to get many converts without unitedly asking for them. Perhaps half-a-dozen Christians meet for prayer on Monday evenings, or perhaps a few gather on Wednesdays when there is half a lecture and half a Prayer Meeting, so that they can say that they do have a Prayer Meeting when, in reality, they do not have one at all! But David said, “Make me pray, Lord. Do not give me anything unless I pray for it! Compel me to plead with You and then give me Your blessing!”
Then, again, David did not expect to pass through life without experiencing difficulties. He had to fight Goliath and he had to go into the cave of Adullam. He expected to have troubles and he certainly was not disappointed. Nor will you be. Do not reckon that God will give you a life without difficulty! Tell me, if you can, of any child of His who ever had such a portion? He had one Son without sin, but no son without sorrow. No, that Son who had no sin was the Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief–so you must expect the Lord to deal with you as He does with the rest of His household.
Lastly, you cannot expect that you shall have continual enjoyments of the light of Christ’s Countenance and a blessed experience of the sweets of His love, without having struggle of soul and conflict of spirit which come from the fact that the devil is not dead, that the world is not changed, that sin still dwells within you and still causes you grief. “Deal with me, O Lord, as You used to do with Your children! I do not want to be picked out from the rest and treated as a favorite.” David once had a favorite child, Absalom, and a dreadful fellow he turned out to be! God does not fill us with sweetmeats–it is not His custom to take away all trouble and give us nothing but joy. Sweetmeats at night mean medicine in the morning! God grant us Grace to be willing to take the bitter with the sweet, to be baptized with Christ’s Baptism and to drink of Christ’s cup–and to always be satisfied as long as we may follow where the bleeding Savior leads the way!
Now, dear Friends, I have done. I hope there has been a word for everybody. And if there has been a word from me to you, let there be a word from you to God–and let this be the prayer that you utter before leaving this house, “Look You upon me and be merciful unto me, as You used to do unto those that love Your name.”