Psalm 119:157

Psalm 119: An Exposition
Charles Bridges

"Many are my persecutors and my enemies,
yet I do not turn from your testimonies."

David's experience is common to us all. Our persecutors and enemies are many indeed. This is a solemn cost for those who follow Christ. Let those who are setting out in the Christian course mark it well. Too often we neglect our Lord's admonition to first count the cost before embarking on any course of action, and because of this many who seem to begin well turn back, being hindered in the race. They are zealous, but rash. They are warm-hearted, but ignorant of themselves, their work, and their resources. Perhaps they were first attracted to a love of the Gospel and Savior by some deceptive picture of never-ending paths of pleasantness and peace, or the joys of heaven. The cross was out of sight and out of mind. But this promise of ease and happiness is no less foolish and indefensible than that of a soldier who is utterly forgetful of his profession, promising himself peace at the very time he is called out to war. Surely, like God's ancient people, if we begin our road in the sunshine, then it is well to be provided against the storms that will soon overtake us. Therefore we say to all, especially to optimistic beginners, let your course begin with serious consideration and zealous self-scrutiny. Beware of hasty decisions. See to it that in the time of distress your resources are not drawn from your own resolutions, sincerity, or fervency of love, but from the fullness that is treasured up in Jesus. Feel every step of your way by the light of the sacred word. If you expect Christian consistency to command the esteem of an ungodly world, then you have forgotten both your Master's word and example--"The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you." Soon you will be ready to cry, "Many are my persecutors and my enemies!" Do not forget that though their hostility may not always be active, their hatred is still alive, not dead but sleeping only. And should you be surprised by such deep-rooted hostility and feel disheartened in the battle, then remember this word of cheering support--"My grace is sufficient for you; for my strength is made perfect in weakness." Let the word of God be your armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left. Then presumption will be cast down, self-confidence humbled, and the trembling simplicity of dependence upon an Almighty arm upheld and honored.

Count then upon the difficulties that beset the heavenly path. You will never pluck the Rose of Sharon if you are afraid of being pricked by the thorns which surround it. You will never reach the crown if you flinch from the cross in the way. Oh, think of the honor of bearing this cross. It is conformity to the Son of God. Let your minds be deeply infused with the remembrance of his daily cross of suffering and reproach, and then you shall gladly go forth bearing his reproach, yes, even rejoicing because you are counted worthy to suffer shame with him and for him. Indeed, what is our love if we will not take up a cross for him? How can we be his followers without his cross? How can we be Christians if we are not confessors of Christ before a world that despises his Gospel?

A steady, consistent profession, however, does not come as a matter of course. The crown is not easily won. Many are our persecutors and enemies. To the mere professor, persecution is an occasion for falling away. But to the faithful servant of Christ, it is the trial of his faith, the source of his richest consolations, the guard of his profession, and the strength of his perseverance. It drives him to his God. He casts himself upon his Savior for immediate refuge and support. The Spirit's quickening influence enables him to say, "Yet I do not turn from your testimonies." Thus did the great Apostle Paul maintain an unshaken confidence in the service of God, when his persecutors were many and human help--even from his friends--had failed him: "At my first defense no man stood with me, but all forsook me . . . But the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me." David himself often acknowledged the same principle of perseverance under similar trials: "Yahweh, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say of me, There is no help for him in God. But you, O Yahweh, are a shield for me, my glory and the one who lifts up my head." "O God the Lord, the strength of my salvation, you have covered my head in the day of battle."

But haven't we, unlike Paul and David, turned away from the Lord's testimonies by taking a circuitous path in order to escape the appointed cross? Haven't we flinched when our enemies reproached us, when they blasphemed God by saying that the Lord would not help us? Can we in the integrity of our heart always claim that we have appealed to an Omniscient God, saying, "All this has come upon us; but we have not forgotten you, nor have we dealt falsely with your covenant. Our heart has not turned back, nor have our steps departed from your way?" Do not think that such a profession would be the foolish confidence of boasting. Rather, it would be the fulfillment of that covenant promise, "I will put my fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from me." How beautifully does the promise of perseverance connect itself with the duty of persevering! Clearly in this, as in every other case, the wrath of man shall praise God (even though wicked men do not intend that it should do so).

How glorious is the display of the power of God's grace in the steadfastness of his people! Like the rocks in the ocean that are anchored amidst the fury of the waves, and like the trees of the forest that are rooted and established by every shaking of the tempest, God's children shall persevere. Must not the world, then, in witnessing the total defeat of their enmity against the Lord's people be constrained to confess, "It shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, Oh, what God has done!"

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