The God of All Grace
by Henry Dyer
This is a Psalm giving instruction. I am reminded of that verse in Prov. ix. 9—"Give instruction to a wise man, and he shall be yet wiser." This Psalm is a sort of spiritual Jacob's ladder, bringing up our souls from the most untoward position to the highest state of communion that we can possibly know on earth. The word "ladder" in this connection does not give the real meaning of the thought in it. It is not so much a ladder in the Hebrew as an ascent; a sort of up-going path that God intended should be Jacob's experience all his life—an ascending path of communion with God. He sets forth the highway of the redeemed, from the depth of our Jacob—like sinfulness up to the height of joying in God.
This Psalm is divided into three parts—
(1) The storehouse of God's wonderful grace for our sinfulness; (2) The storehouse of His infinite power for our troubles; (3) The storehouse of His infinite wisdom for our pilgrim journey. Summed up in few words—grace for our sinfulness, strength for our trials, and guidance for our journey. These constitute our three-fold want.
To Israel in the land of Egypt, the lamb slain instead of the death of the first-born, was the love that loved them. In the lamb slain, we see the riches of God's grace; in the divided Red Sea, we see the riches of His power; and in the desert, we see the riches of His wisdom to guide them. God, in effect, said to them, "You are no better than these Egyptians: if I don't smite the first-born in your households, it is only because you have a lamb slain, not because of anything in you."
Verse 1 reads thus—"O blessedness! forgiven transgression! covered sin!" These words form one mighty outburst of the rejoicing soul of the Psalmist. The word "man" does not come in here at all. When God found us at first, our name was "sinner." We were only a part of the big lump of the Adam race. We were only known by these words, "transgression" and "sin." Hence there is nothing to distinguish us from any other. We were "children of wrath even as others." God in His sovereign love dealt with you and me in grace, not because there was anything in us better than in others. He forgave us our transgressions, and covered our sin by the precious blood of Christ, because through His grace we came to Him with nothing but our sin and transgression, and accepted by faith His Son, and with Him the provision made for us in Him for the forgiveness of our transgression and the putting away of our sin; and all the subsequent blessing flows from that. "O blessedness!" When did it begin? The first sigh of sorrow for sin was the beginning of an everlasting communion with God.
To transgress is to commit a distinct act, and you need to be brought into the searching light of God's presence that you may see it even as He sees it. Sin is the stain that the transgression leaves on the soul. Our first parents committed one act of transgression, and it left the stain of sin. After they fell, God came in grace and made known unto them the coming Saviour; He clothed them with coats of skin, and thus He covered their sin.
Verse 2—"O the blessedness of the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile." Now the word "man" comes in. The moment we come as lost guilty sinners to the Saviour our name is written in "the Lamb's Book of Life." We are practically separated from the Adam lump. Mark, the word "sin" does not occur in this verse, but there is another word, and that is "iniquity." It does not say "blessed is the man that hath no sin." There is no child of God but has a sinful nature. These words, "no guile," mean no cloaking of sin. We have an example of this in Rev. xiv. 5—"These were redeemed from among men, . . . and in their mouth was no guile; for they are without fault before the throne of God." One characteristic of the redeemed family is this; by God's grace they are a people that do not cloak their sin, but are clothed with God's cloak, raiment of love Divine—the righteousness of God, which is in Christ Jesus. We would also remind you of those blessed words that Jehovah put into the mouth of Balaam—"He hath not found iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel." The sins which we have committed in our regenerate condition are vastly greater than those committed by us in our unregenerate state. They make known to us the depth of our corruption. It is the saints of God who know the magnitude of sin—
"O to grace how great a debtor!"
Once when He plucked me from an awful hell.
"Daily I'm constrained to be."
I am a debtor to this moment. "O blessedness!" A sinner saved in verse 1. "I feel humbled as I think of the sin sustained by Christ for me. I don't cloak it, but I tell Him how bad I am and how full of grace He is to meet my constant need." John says that the one who says he has no sin deceives himself, and the truth is not in him. He says, "We are a people that confess our sins, walk in the light, and have fellowship one with the other. We walk in the light which leads us straight to God, and we will say that the blood is still cleansing." I don't know another place in the New Testament where these words, "all sin," are found together; and they are found in connection with saints walking in the light. "If we walk in the light, as our God is in the light, we have fellowship one with another." Sunbeams don't quarrel with each other, and saints don't quarrel except they get out of the light. In my flesh sin dwells; you might as well tell me that my body is not mortal as say that my heart is not sin. As long as I live in this body sin will dwell in my flesh. What do I do? I tell it to the Lord. If I do not confess my sin, a cloud comes between my soul and my Father at once.
Verse 3—"When I kept silence my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long." A believer out of communion with God is a pitiful object; he neither enjoys the world nor his God. Although this Psalm gives us David's experience and the condition of his soul at the time, the Spirit of God has so dictated it that it is applicable to the daily business of all believers as to the condition of their souls. David kept silence during those sad few months before Nathan came to him. I may not have committed the same grievous sins, but I may commit other sins which hide the face of God from me and therefore hinder my communion with Him. If I don't walk as one who knows his sinfulness, and his daily need of grace to meet it, then I am one keeping silence. Going on in this condition of soul, my heart becomes hardened instead of contrite. How can the rain or heavenly dew of His grace come down on the hardened soil of such a heart? Let me take care lest the state of my heart becomes like the hardened soil of an unploughed field, or the stony hardness of a road that has been well trodden down. The road may be useful, but it cannot drink in the rain; and nothing can be allowed to grow upon it. The fallow ground cannot drink in the rain, not being ploughed up. May we know what we are in ourselves, and through God's grace be saved from David's experience. Saints who do not make it their daily business to examine their hearts in the searching light of God's presence, know little of that Calvary's Cross that brought them there at first. The peace and rest that many of God's children enjoy is the result of the knowledge that they have of their innate sinfulness, and the value of the death of Christ to meet it. They know the abundant provision which is in Christ for them, because they are conscious of their need of it. I hope we may learn to take the humble and lowly place, and to keep there. If you dig your garden deep, and manure it well, it will be fruitful. And our souls shall be fruitful, and showers of heavenly grace shall fall copiously upon us if we dig deep down into the love of God, and walk humbly before Him. Christ reveals Himself to each saint according to his knowledge of Him and subjection to Him. But soon He will bring us all unto the perfect likeness of Himself. If we would know and experience the riches of His grace, we must dwell in the light of His presence. You will learn more your debtorship as you learn your inborn sinfulness.
Verse 5—"I acknowledge my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgression unto the Lord; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin." A soul out of communion may get restored by a single glance of His eye upon him. "I only said I would confess, and in flowed the grace directly." I have heard an unsaved sinner compared to a dry dock; inside all is dry, whilst outside the mighty ocean is clamouring to get in. But there is another dry dock, and that is the heart of a poor saint out of communion with God. O what an awful dry dock that saint is who regularly reads his Bible and goes and despises the very truth that he has read! Who breaks the bread and drinks the wine in professed remembrance of the Lord, but whose heart is untouched by the love of that dying Saviour? That saint is out of fellowship with God; he is not drinking in the love of Christ. The ocean of His mighty love is waiting to get into his soul to fill it. Let him but say truly, "Father, I have sinned," and the love of God will flow into his heart.
That closes the first section of our precious Psalm, the subject of which is sin and the storehouse of Divine grace. In the second part of this Psalm sin is not mentioned, because, in the plenitude of His grace to our souls, He has provided for our sinfulness; then we can trust to Him to undertake for us in all our troubles.
Verse 6—"For this shall every one that is godly pray unto Thee in a time when Thou mayest be found; surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him." It is always a time of finding if you only let the grace of God be the stay of your souls. No outside cloud can hide the face of God from His child if his soul is right within; but if it is not so, I am not able to bear outside affliction. My God is a refuge, though the floods should come and the waves rise. "There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God"—and the citizens of that city. What do we want if sorrow and trials come upon us as a deluge? Only let our souls be in communion with our God, let them come; they may be round about us, but they will not come nigh unto us.
Verse 7—"Thou art my hiding-place; Thou shalt preserve me from trouble; Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance." There is joy for trying circumstances, because of the triumph in the chambers of my soul through the grace of God. May He write this on all our hearts. The last part of this Psalm refers to God's own thoughts about our want of wisdom. We need Him to guide us, and He does indeed lead and guide the subject one.
Verses 8, 9—"I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go; I will guide thee with Mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding; whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near thee." That is, "Don't let Me be obliged to bring thee near Me by bit and bridle; I want you to come near Me in the closeness of personal communion." Who would have thought that all those three million of the people of Israel that were going between these mighty walls of water were to go into a pathless desert where there were no streams of water to drink? They might say, "Moses, you have made a mistake, you had better take us back." No mistake, Jehovah will instruct and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go; He will guide you with His eye. I get His eye by the Cross in the gift of His Son. I can trust that eye for every circumstance into which He may lead me. "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Rom. viii. 32.) Notice some of the all things that Paul enumerates, "Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword." There is none of these things at all pleasing. "In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us." God can take up any one of us and so teach us that we may not only read it, but sing it triumphantly. "I will guide thee with Mine eye." "Let thine eye meet Mine; let us know each other at a glance." God knows that the look of His eye, in life or death, in ease or suffering, in comfort or sorrow, will cheer and encourage our hearts.
Verse 11—"Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart." This is the crowning top of the soul's portion here below. Paul says in Romans v.—"We joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ." And having such grace, "we rejoice in hope of the glory of God." God settles the business of the sinfulness of our souls that He may keep us walking in the sunlight of communion with Himself. He gives us a sight of a bottomless hell at the beginning, that we may walk closely to Him all the way home. There are comparatively few scriptures bearing upon eternal punishment; but there is quite enough to settle the certainty and reality of it. The most of God's Book is taken up with showing His people how to walk on the highway of the redeemed.