The Upright - What God is to Them, and Does for Them
For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. - Psalm lxxxiv:11.
The writer of this Psalm placed a high estimate on the public worship of God. It seems, too, that at the time it was written he was deprived of the privileges of the sanctuary. Hence his language: "My soul longeth, yea, fainteth, for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. A day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness." But why are the privileges of the sanctuary so precious? Because the sanctuary is God's house, and the Lord God is a sun and shield. He gives grace and glory to his worshipers, and withholds no good thing from the upright. It is a great honor to worship such a Being.
Let us notice,
I. The Characters Referred To.
They are upright - they walk uprightly. We
know the meaning of upright in its physical sense. In its spiritual sense it means conformity to the standard of moral rectitude. This standard is the Word of God, and conformity to it has reference both to the heart and the life.
There must be a change of heart. There is no internal uprightness in the unregenerate. God made man upright, but he has fallen from his original state. He is corrupt and sinful - under the dominion of carnal appetites and passions. He is under the necessity of becoming a new creature before he can be upright. Unrenewed man is totally destitute of love to God, which indicates an entire absence of uprightness of heart. The heart is wrong, altogether wrong, until its affections are placed supremely on God. Regeneration stamps the divine image on the soul, and here begins internal uprightness. The Holy Spirit, in renewing the heart, does a great work, a wondrous work, comparable to the creation of the world. "If any man be in Christ he is a new creature - or there is a new creation - old things are passed away: behold, all things are become new." There is a new disposition of heart; and the Divine Spirit, in regeneration, gives this new disposition. Some suppose that what is called the disposition of the heart lies back of the affections, and controls them; so, that whenever the disposition is changed in the regenerating process, the affections are placed supremely on God. This may be true, and it may be too metaphysical to dwell upon in the pulpit.
We know from Scripture that "every one that loveth is born of God." Love to God is the most prominent exercise of a regenerate heart. It involves internal uprightness.
The text refers also to uprightness of life. To walk uprightly, is to live uprightly. To "walk" as the word is often used in the Bible, denotes the deportment, the conduct. The life must be upright. "The grace of God, which brings salvation, teaches us that, denying all ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world." Those who are truly upright, have much more regard for moral than for legal right. A thing legally right may be morally wrong. The upright man disdains to avail himself of a legal right to perpetrate a moral wrong. He practically regards his promises. He considers his promises as binding as his bond, or his oath. He would rather suffer wrong than do wrong. He aims to copy the example of Christ, who was the personification of uprightness. He acts with a view to the approbation of God, who requires holiness of life as well as holiness of heart. Those who are "created in Christ Jesus" are "created unto good works." The performance of good works results legitimately from their creation in Christ. In other words, uprightness of life proceeds from uprightness of heart. And this illustrates the truth of the declaration of Jesus: "Make the tree good and the fruit will be good."
II. What God is to Those Who Walk Uprightly.
1. He is a sun. - This is a striking metaphor. It is the province of the sun to enlighten. He sends forth his rays and illumines and blesses dependent planets. His bright face makes all creation wear a smile.
God as a sun enlightens. Those who are without God are in darkness. Sin hides from their view the sun, whose beams fall on the upright. Hence sinners are in moral night. Paul was sent to the Gentiles to turn them from darkness to light. He said to the Ephesians, "Ye were once darkness but are now light in the Lord: walk as children of light." To the upright God is a sun. They enjoy divine illumination. They can say as David, "The Lord is my light and my salvation." How gloomy would be our pilgrimage to eternity if God were not a sun to enlighten!
Closely allied to the idea of light is that of joy and comfort. The wise man said, "Truly light is sweet, and it is a pleasant thing for the eyes to behold the sun." Jehovah is to the upright the God of all comfort. He is the inexhaustible source of joy. David refers to him as his "exceeding joy," and Paul says, "we joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
The sun is the source of heat. Beneath his beams the frosts disappear - the snows dissolve - and the most compact icicles become liquid God, by his Spirit, warms the cold heart - revives the languid affections.
"Did not our heart burn within us," said the transported disciples, "while he talked with us by the way, and opened to us the Scriptures?"
The sun makes the earth fruitful. Without his beams what would showers avail? He sheds forth his beams and calls up from the soil the flowers, the herb, the plant, the tree, and all the varieties of vegetable production. God, by the influences emanating from him, causes the "fruits of righteousness to abound - makes his people "fruitful in every good work" - and shows that they are "the planting of his hand that he may be glorified." Truly our God is a sun.
2. God is a shield. - The idea here is that of protection, defense. Those who walk uprightly are objects of Satan's malignant hatred. His fiery darts fly thick around them. He is ever watching to find unguarded points. Finding them he throws his missiles with malicious aim. He is never weary in inventing plans and stratagems by which to annoy and injure those who love God. But the upright have a shield. God is their shield. He protects them. He stretches out his mighty arm and intercepts and wards off the fiery darts of the adversary. This fact is the ground of confidence to the righteous. God is their defense, their shield and buckler. Satan may do his utmost; he may employ his malevolent ingenuity and give full exercise to his malignant enmity; the world may calumniate and persecute, but God vindicates the upright from the aspersions of men, and the assaults of the devil.
God, as a shield, protects his people, and suffers none of them to be confounded. Happy are they who are under the broad aegis of the divine protection. They shall ultimately conquer - aye, come off more than conquerers through him that loved them - and sing the song of victory through endless ages. What saint does not rejoice that God is his shield, that he is guarded and fortified by the divine protection?
"More happy, but not more secure,
Are the glorified spirits in heaven."
III. What God Does for Those Who Walk Uprightly.
1. He gives grace. - It is what they need. They are the beneficiaries of divine grace. They are indebted to grace for what they are. Every one of them can say with a pious man, "I am not what I once was - I am not what I hope to be - but by the grace of God I am what I am."
The upright ascribe their regeneration to grace, for "God, according to his abundant mercy, has begotten them to a lively hope." "For his great love wherewith he loved them, he has quickened them together with Christ." They have been justified freely by the grace of God through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. The term grace in the text,, includes all those spiritual blessings which God bestows on his people in their earthly pilgrimage. At every step of this pilgrimage they need grace. They need it in the day of prosperity to prevent extravagant elation.
They need it in the day of adversity to prevent unreasonable depression. They need it in the hour of temptation. They need it in their spiritual joys and in their spiritual sorrows. They need it when disease wastes away their mortal frames. They need it in the hour of death. What but grace can disarm death of its sting, and swell the soul with rapture when the body claims kindred with the dust. "What God's people need he gives. He gives grace. They do not merit it. He gives it - and gives it in wise adaptation to their necessities. He will give it, because he wills to give it. It is his good pleasure to give it. He delights in bestowing it; for it gratifies the benevolent impulses of the divine nature. Its communication is necessary to demonstrate the sublimest of propositions - GOD IS LOVE.
2. He gives glory. The term, grace in the text indicates what God does for his people on this side of heaven - the term glory denotes what he will do for them when they reach that bright world. Grace is glory in the bud. Glory is the fullblown flower. When the upright enter heaven "the promises," to use the characteristic language of Chalmers, "will effloresce into full performance." Glory includes all the bliss of heaven and is a compendious description of it. It is called the glory of God, in hope of which the saints rejoice. It consists in a brilliant manifestation of the perfections of God - such a manifestation as will attract and concentrate the admiring gaze of the redeemed through endless duration; for it is eternal glory to
which God has called his saints. The displays of this glory will be unclouded and everlasting. Its brightness will become more and more intense through the long cycles of interminable ages. "Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel," said the Psalmist, "and afterward receive me to glory." No imagination can conceive how much is implied when it is said the Lord will give glory. The very thought of glory dazzles with its brilliancy and oppresses with its weight. Surely if God gives grace and glory, it follows that he will withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly.
1. Are you among the upright? Do you walk uprightly? Does the uprightness of your life indicate the uprightness of your heart?
2. If so, rejoice in what God is to you and does for you.
3. Sinners, you have no God to be your sun and shield. You are without God, and, therefore, without a title to glory. Would you not possess the character, and enjoy the privileges of the upright?
[From J. M. Pendleton, Short Sermons on Important Subjects, 1859. This book is from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Library, Wake Forest, NC via ILL through Boone County Public Library, Burlington, KY. - Jim Duvall]
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