Unparalleled Loving Kindnesses
“Lord, where are Your former loving kindnesses, which You swore unto David in Your truth?”
THE LORD had made an Everlasting Covenant with David, ordered in all things and sure, yet that Covenant was not intended to preserve him from trouble. When this Psalm was written, he had been brought very low. His crown had been cast down to the ground, his enemies had rejoiced over him and he had become a reproach to his neighbors. Then his thoughts flew back to the happier days of the past and the Covenant which the Lord had made with him–and either David, himself, or Ethan, writing on his behalf, enquired, in the words of our text, “Lord, where are Your former loving kindnesses, which You swore unto David in Your truth?”
- Applying this passage to the people of God, I remark, first, that WE HAVE RECEIVED MANY MERCIES IN THE PAST.
Is that too common a matter for you to think and talk about? If you know it so well, why do you forget it so often? The mercies of God wake us every morning so that we are as used to them as we are to the sunlight, yet some of us think but little of them. They follow us till the night and we get as accustomed to them as we do to our beds, yet perhaps some of us think less of them than we do of our beds! We have Providential mercies every moment of the day and every day of our lives–we can never count the number of them, for they are more than the sands upon the seashore! I am going, however, to speak of the spiritual mercies with which God has enriched us–the blessings of the upper springs–and it will help you to recall them if I take the list of them that is given at the beginning of the 103 rd Psalm.
Turn to it and read, first, “ who forgives all your iniquities.” All of us to whom these words belong should constantlyremember that we are pardoned souls. We were not so once–oh, what would we not have given, then, to know what we know now? At that time, our iniquities pressed upon us as a burden that we could not bear! The stings of conscience gave us no rest and the terrors of Hell got hold of us! When I was under conviction of sin, I felt that I would willingly have given my eyes, my hands, my all, if I might but be able to say, “I am a forgiven soul.” So, now that we are pardoned, let us not forget the Lord’s loving kindness in forgiving all our iniquities. If you, my Hearer, can forget it, I may well question whether your iniquities have ever been forgiven, for the pardon of sin is so great a mercy that the song which it evokes from the heart must last forever!
The next mercy in the Psalmist’s list is, “ who heals all your diseases.” Think again, my Brother or my Sister, whatthe Lord has done for you in this respect. Once, pride possessed you like a burning fever and long prevented you from submitting to God’s simple plan of salvation–but you have been cured of that terrible malady and now you are sitting humbly at the feet of Jesus rejoicing in being saved by Divine Grace! Perhaps you were once like the demoniac of old. The chains of morality could not bind you and the fetters of human law could not restrain you. You cut and wounded yourself and you were a terror unto others. But, now, thanks be unto God, you are so completely healed that there is not even a scar left to show where you were wounded! Will you not praise the Lord for this unspeakable mercy? What would you not have given for it, once, when your many diseases held you in their cruel grip? Then cease not to praise JehovahRophi, “the Lord that heals you!”
The next mercy also demands a song of grateful praise–“ who redeems your life from destruction.” You have beensaved from going down into the Pit–the ransom price has been paid for you and you have been redeemed–not with silver and gold, “but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” Remember there is no wrath against you, now, in the heart of God, for His righteous anger on account of your sin was all poured out upon the head of His dear Son, your Surety and Substitute! The devil has no claim upon you, now, for you have been redeemed by Christ unto the last farthing. Then can you forget to praise Him who has done such great things for you? What would you not have given, at one time, to have had half a hope that you were a redeemed soul when your poor knees were sore through your long praying, and your voice was hoarse with crying unto God? You would gladly have bartered the light of day, the comforts of life and the joys of friendship for the assurance of your redemption! Well, then, since you have now obtained that priceless gift, forget not to praise the Lord for all His loving kindness towards you!
For the next clause in the Psalm is this, “ who crowns you with loving kindness and tender mercies.” Think, Brotheror Sister in Christ, what the Lord has done for you. Not content with saving you from Hell, He has adopted you into His own family, made you a son or a daughter of the King of kings and set a royal crown upon your head–a crown of “loving kindness and tender mercies.” You are made an heir of God and a joint-heir with Jesus Christ! Is not this unparalleled loving kindness? Is not this, indeed, the tender mercy of our God towards you? Then can you ever forget such loving kindness and tender mercy? There have been times, in the past history of some of us, when that ancient prophecy has been most graciously fulfilled in our experience, “You shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” So, as we remember the former loving kindnesses of the Lord, we rejoice that He still crowns us with loving kindnesses and tender mercies!
We must not forget the next verse–“ who satisfies your mouth with good things; so that your youth is renewed likethe eagle’s.” If we are in Christ Jesus, we have all that we need–we are perfectly satisfied. We do not need a better Savior, we do not need a better hope, we do not need a better Bible, we do not need better promises. We do need more faith,but we do not need a better ground of faith! We do desire to have more love to our Lord, but we do not desire a better Object for our love! We desire to always dive deeper and deeper, but only in the fathomless sea of Jesus' love! Others are roaming here and there, vainly seeking satisfaction, but our mouth is so filled with good things that we are satisfied. We asked and the Lord gave to us. We prayed for pardon and the Lord fully forgave us for Jesus' sake. We have received so much mercy from Him that our soul is satisfied and soars aloft as on an eagle’s wings, leaving all terrestrial cares, sorrows and doubts far below us amid the earth-born clouds above which we have mounted by God’s Grace!
II. Now, having thus briefly recalled the Lord’s former loving kindnesses, I have to remind you, in the second place, that WE ARE NOT ALWAYS CONSCIOUS OF THE SAME FLOW OF MERCY TOWARD US.
The Psalmist asks, “Lord, where are Your former loving kindnesses?” Well, where are they? Why, they are where they used to be, though we do not always realize them! The Lord’s mercies have not changed, but our perception of them is not always as vivid as it ought to be. Let us again consider the mercies of which I have already spoken to you.
“ Who forgives all your iniquities.” There are times when a Christian fears whether his sins are really forgiven. He issaved, yet he has a doubt whether he is saved or not. All his past sins seem to rise up before him and the foul suggestion of unbelief is, “Can it be possible that all those sins have been put away? Have all those mountains of iniquity been cast into the Red Sea of the Savior’s atoning blood?” Many young Believers who judge themselves too much by their feelings, areapt to imaging that they have been deceived and that they are still under condemnation. If I have any Brothers or Sisters like that here, let me assure them that there are times when the very best of the saints have to cry out in the bitterness of their soul, “Lord, where are Your former loving kindnesses?” The Believer in Christ is always justified as far as the Law of God is concerned, but he does not always hear the proclamation of pardon in the court of conscience! God’s sun is always shining, but there are clouds that obscure its beams, yet it is only hidden for a while. So is it with the loving kindness of the Lord with regard to the forgiveness of sin–whether we always realize it or not, the forgiveness that has once been bestowed upon us will never be withdrawn from us, world without end!
It is the same with the next mercy–“ who heals all your diseases.” It may be that there are some of us here who knowthat the Great Physician has healed our soul maladies, yet at times unbelief and other evil diseases cause us pain and agony of spirit. It is with us as it was in the days of Noah when the fountains of the great deep were broken up–and happy are we if we can now float in the ark of our faith above the awful sea of our depravity which threatens to drown every spiritual comfort and cover every hope! If I were to look within my own heart for comfort and hope, I would often be in despair–but when I look away to my Lord, alone, then I realize what He has done and is still doing for me, for He still “heals” all my diseases! Marvel not, dear Friends, if you cannot see yourselves growing in Grace as you would like to do. When a farmer goes to look at his root crops, he is not so much concerned as to the appearance of the part that is above ground–he needs to know how that part is flourishing that is out of sight. So, very often a Christian is growing underground, as it were–growing in Divine Grace, knowledge, love and humility–though he may not have as many virtues and graces that are visible to other people, or even to himself. Sanctification is being worked in the saints according to the will of God, but it is a secret work–yet, in due time the fruit of it will be manifest, even as the farmer at the proper season digs up his roots and rejoices that his labor has not been expended upon them in vain.
Notice, too, that next mercy–“ who redeems your life from destruction.” Now mark this–those who are once redeemed are always redeemed! The price of their redemption was paid upon Calvary and that great transaction can never be reversed. I dare to put it very strongly and to say that they were as fully redeemed when they were dead in trespasses and sins as they will be when they stand in the full blaze of Jehovah’s Presence before the eternal Throne of God! They were not, then, conscious of their redemption, but their unconsciousness did not alter the fact of their redemption! So is it with the Believer–there are dark days and cloudy days in his experience, but he is just as truly saved in the dark and cloudy day as when the sun is shining brightly and the clouds have all been blown away! In the old days of slavery, when a slave’s freedom had been purchased, there may have been times when he had not much to eat, or when he had many aches and pains, but such things did not affect the fact that he was a free man. Suppose someone had said to him, “My poor fellow, you have nothing in the cupboard, you are very sick and ill, you are still a slave”? He would have replied, “That is not good reasoning. I know that I was redeemed, for I saw the price paid for my ransom. I have my free papers and I shall never again be a slave!” So is it with Believers–the Son of God has made them free by giving Himself as a ransom for them, so they shall be “free indeed.” Their redemption does not depend upon their realization of it, but upon their Redeemer who has made it effective for them!
The same principle applies to the next mercy–“ who crowns you with loving kindness and tender mercies.” Theremay be some Christians here who need to learn a lesson that one good Methodist tried to teach another whom he met at a class meeting. It grieved him as he heard over and over again the story of his Brother’s trials and troubles, but nothing about the multitudes of mercies with which he was continually being crowned. So one day he said to him, “My Brother, I wish you would change your residence–you do not live in the right part of the town.” “How is that?” enquired the other. “Why, you live where I used to live, down in Murmuring Street. It is very dark and narrow, the chimneys always smoke, the lamps never burn brightly and all sorts of diseases abound in that unhealthy quarter. I got tired of living in Murmuring Street, so I took a new house in Content Street. It is a fine, wide, open street where the breezes of Heaven can freely blow, so the people who dwell there are healthy and happy. And though all the houses in the street are of different sizes, it is a very remarkable thing that they are, all of them, just the right size for the people who live in them! The Apostle Paul used to live in that street, for he said, ‘I have learned in whatever state I am, therewith to be content,” so I would advise you, my Brother, to move into Content Street as soon as you can.“ That was very good advice–and we may pass it on to any murmurers or grumblers whom we know. Think, Beloved, how the Lord is still crowning you with loving kindness and tender mercies! I know you are not strong, but then you have not that acute pain you used to have. I know that you are growing old, but that only means that you are getting so much nearer Heaven! I know your friends are fewer than they used to be, but then those who are left are true friends. So you see that you are still crowned with loving kindness and tender mercies!
So is it with the last mercy in the list–“ who satisfies your mouth with good things.” I will venture to say that theChristian has not one real need that is not satisfied with the good things that God has provided for him. If he has any other need, or thinks he has, it is better for him not to have that need supplied. If we need the pleasures of sin, it is a great mercy that God will not give them to us, for the supply of such a need would be our soul’s damnation! If we could gather any comfort through following that which is evil, it is of the Lord’s mercy that such comfort is not our portion–
“This world is ours and worlds to come!
Earth is our lodge and Heaven our home,”
so what can we need besides?
III. Now, thirdly, WHY ARE WE NOT ALWAYS CONSCIOUS OF THE SAME FLOW OF MERCY TOWARD US?
Sometimes we miss our former comforts as the result of sin. Sin indulged is a certain barrier to happiness. No one can enjoy communion with Christ while turning aside to crooked ways. To the extent to which a Believer is inconsistent with his profession, to that extent will he be unhappy–and it will be no cause for surprise if he has to cry, “Lord, where are Your former loving kindnesses?” We must always distinguish between the punishment of sin which Christ endured on His people’s behalf and the fatherly chastisement with which God visits upon them for their wrong-doing. Though He will not condemn them as a Judge, He will chastise them as a Father. And they cannot expect to enjoy the loving kindnesses of the Lord while they are enduring the strokes of His rod because of their transgressions!
We may also lose a comfortable sense of God’s mercy through neglecting to use the means of Grace. Leave off theregular reading of your Bible and then you will be like the man who misses his meals and so grows weak and languid. Neglect private prayer and then see whether you will not have to cry with Job, “Oh that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me when His candle shined upon my head and when, by His light, I walked through darkness.” Stay away from the Prayer Meetings and then if your soul is not sad, it ought to be! If a man will not come where there is a fire, is it surprising that he cries that he cannot get warm? The neglect of the means of Grace causes many to enquire, “Lord, where are Your former loving kindnesses?”
The same result follows when any idol is set up in our heart. While we worship the Lord, alone, the temple of ourheart will be filled with His Glory. But if we set up an idol upon His Throne, we shall soon hear the rushing of wings and the Divine Voice saying, “Let Us go from here.” God and mammon cannot abide in the same house! Remember that you serve a jealous God and be very careful not to provoke Him to jealousy. Every idol must be cast down, or His comfortable Presence cannot be enjoyed.
Coldness of heart towards God is another cause of the loss of enjoyment of His favor. When the heart grows spiritually cold, the whole being soon gets out of order. If the heart is warm and vigorous, the pulsations throughout the entire frame will be kept strong and healthy, but when the heart is cold, the blood will be chilled in the veins and all the powers will be numbed and paralyzed. So, Beloved, see to it that in the power of the Holy Spirit you maintain the love of your espousals–that pristine warmth of holy affection which you delighted to manifest when first you knew the Lord–or else you will soon have to cry, “Lord, where are Your former loving kindnesses?” Live near to God and this shall not often be your cry! But if you backslide from Him, this shall soon be your sorrowful enquiry. If you have to mourn an absent God, seek to know the reason why He has withdrawn Himself from you–and repent of the sin that has separated you from Him.
IV. Now, Lastly, LET US REMEMBER THAT THE DIVINE COVENANT REMAINS FIRM AND STEADFAST UNDER ALL CHANGING CIRCUMSTANCES. The Covenant made with David was established by the oath of God. And Paul, writing to the Hebrews, says that “God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two Immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.”
For our consolation, let us remember, first, that the parties to the Covenant are always the same. God has not one setof chosen ones today and another set tomorrow. In the Lamb’s Book of Life there are not erasures of certain names and the insertion of others in their place. No, Beloved, that is not the way in which the Lord deals with His elect–He does not play fast and loose with them like that. He does not love them one day, and hate them the next. Oh, no!–
“Whom once He loves, He never leaves,
But loves them to the end.”
And, next, the Seal of the Covenant is always the same. It is sealed with the precious blood of Jesus! His one greatSacrifice on Calvary made the Covenant forever sure–
“‘Tis signed, and sealed, and ratified,
In all things ordered well.”
We do not seal the Covenant–Christ has done that–it is His blood that makes the Covenant sure to all for whom He stood as Surety and Substitute. This is our consolation even when we have no present enjoyment of the blessings that are secured to us by the Covenant. Even the sealing of the Spirit is not the Seal of the Covenant, though it is to us the certain evidence of our interest in the Covenant–it is like a seal on our copy of the Covenant, the great deed itself, sealed with the blood of Jesus, is safely preserved in the archives of Heaven where none can mutilate or steal or destroy it!
Further, the efficacy of the Covenant is always the same. It is not like human covenants which may or may not befulfilled, or which may become void through lapse of time. This Covenant is eternal, covering past, present and future–and it shall be fulfilled to the last jot and tittle, for He who swore unto David will certainly perform all that He has promised to His own chosen people–
“The Voice that rolls the stars along
Speaks all the promises.”
When God said, “Let there be light,” there was light. And when that same God says, “Let there be light in that dark soul,” the light at once enters the heart and it is Divinely illuminated! Thus it has come to pass that we who were sometimes darkness, now are light in the Lord. And to us comes the Apostolic injunction, “Walk as children of light.” The efficacy of the Covenant does not depend upon us–if it did, it would be a poor, feeble, fickle thing that would fail us just when we needed it most! There would be no hope of our ever getting to Heaven if we had to depend upon our own efforts, or our own merits, or anything of our own–our comfort arises from the fact that the Covenant is made on our behalf by our great Representative and Redeemer, who will, Himself, see that all that is guaranteed to us in the Covenant is fulfilled in due season! There rolls the glorious chariot of salvation in which all Believers are riding to Heaven! Death and Hell cannot stop it! All the fears of any who are in it will not affect their eternal safety and not one of them shall be found to be missing in the day when the roll of the redeemed is called in Glory! Be of good courage, Believer, for you are saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation! Even though you have, for a while, to mourn the loss of the Lord’s former loving kindnesses, search your heart to see how far that loss has been caused by your own sin. And then return to the Lord with all your heart and He will renew to you His former favors and give to you new mercies of which you have not as yet even dreamed!
As for those here who have no former loving kindnesses of the Lord to which they can look back, I pray that this may be the beginning of better days for them. May they think of the mercies which the Lord has bestowed upon others and may they cry unto Him, “Lord, do to us as You have done to them! Adopt us into Your family as Your sons and Your daughters, and let us share in all the blessings that You give to Your children!” Remember, dear Friends, that it is by simple and sincere faith in the crucified Christ of Calvary that sinners are eternally saved! It is by His blood that we who once were afar off, are now made near! Whoever believes in Him shall not be ashamed or confounded! Therefore, my Hearer, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved, and God shall be glorified. So may it be, for Jesus' sake! Amen.