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glory”—for a man whom almost everybody was defaming. David was, the scorn and scoff of every pot-house ruffian, but of God he could say, “He is my glory; the lifter-up of
my head.” When you dare not look a human being in the face, the consciousness of your own guilt and ill-desert is so bad, when you dare not even look to God's clear heaven, when you are like the publican with your head cast down as an indication of the utter prostration of your heart, then God is the lifter-up of your head. How exactly God titted this banished man ! There is an old tradition amongst the Jews, that the manna tasted like whatever you were hungry for every morning. If you woke
for example, hungry for Egyptian cucumbers and leeks, and did not murmur after them, but thankfully took your manna, the manna tasted like them. If
up, like a Scotchman, wanting it to taste like porridge and milk, it became so.
It was whatever you wanted it to be. And God, oh, He is our life; He wakens us every morning. He is all our strength and stay, and is whatever you need Him to be. Do you want a friend ? God is a Friend. Do you want a guide? God is a Guide. Do you want somebody to be as it were your leader in battle? The Lord is a Man of War. Do you want somebody to be your advocate, to stand in the High Court and plead your cause? We have an Advocate. Whatever you want Him or need Him to be, He adapts Himself exactly to the very shape and body and colour of your wants. It is all in that verse. “A shield-glory-lifter-up of mine head.” What was David wanting but just all these things. He was needing protection; and God, his shield, covered his head in the day of battle. He was needing somebody to stand up for him, he was needing one who would come and overcome the very
accusations of his own conscience. Ah! these are the last accusers to be pushed off—the accusations of one's own conscience. You may get friends to stand up
for the world; but if your heart says it is less than the truth, then God alone can lift your downcast head. But God can. He takes in the whole compass of your case, and pleads and wins on every point; restores you to the kingdom, to the good opinion of all those whose good opinion is worth having, and restores you to peace with yourself. “My shield, my glory, and the lifter-up of my head."
I like that last expression, “ Lifter-up of my head." I know it means to restore to honour; but it means this also. There is your child, my good mother, and your child has been bad, and you have chastised it. You have put the poor little bụndle of wretchedness and crossness into a corner, and there it is standing, soiling all its face with hot and scalding tears. Then your heart relents; the extreme of misery tells upon you, for you are its mother, and blood is thicker than water. And you come towards the little thing, and, as you come nearer and nearer, the farther it creeps in the corner, and the lower it hangs its head. And what do you do? Instead of chastising it any more, you come quite close, and with one hand on the little one's shoulder you put the other hand below its chin, and, literally, you lift up the little face into the light of your own, and stoop down and kiss it. Did you ever think that that is what God wants to do with the poor weary sinner who has gone back and done shamefully? When fears are on every side, and awful voices in your own heart speak ominously of eternal doom, God comes, and with His own gracious hand lifts up your head. It has other meanings, but I take the homeliest one. He anoints and cheers our soiled face; He lifts up our head, and lets the light of His own reconciled countenance beam down upon us.
“I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and He heard me out of His holy hill." David is here represented in prayer. How constantly you meet David crying unto God, asking for mercy. But I think he always contrives to put in some little new touch to bring in variety in the midst of what otherwise would be monotony. And here is one, “I cried unto the Lord with my voice.” Why does he put in “ with my voice”? " And He heard me out of His holy hill.” Don't you think, my hearer, the Spirit of God is teaching us behind that way of putting it. A good deal of our trouble is owing to this. That not only have we sinned against God, but we do not energetically seek that God in our own prayer. It was not a dumb thinking of the matter over within his own breast with David, but he spoke out. I know we can pray without words ; but here is how God would teach us, especially when things are dark without, and sad and heavy within. He wants to hear the voice of His people crying to Him. I am afraid a number of people are reducing prayer too much to a kind of holy meditation. “Enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door"_why “shut the door " ? because you are going to use your voice. And it is good for you to hear your own voice, calling upon your own God. A great many of the beleaguers of your soul who stand round about you will take flight, when they see you down upon your knees, and hear your voice saying, "Lord help me." A number of us are being merged and almost submerged in a deep and angry sea of trouble for want of the cry, “Lord, save me; I perish.” Speak to thy God. Cast out the dumb spirit.
“I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and He heard me out of His holy hill." That is a splendid text for this agnostic, materialistic nineteenth century.
What a grand philosophy of prayer we get in God's Book and these Psalms. Let it be written in letters of living light. “I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and He heard me out of His holy hill.” I, down here in darkness, with trouble closing upon me like wolves upon the belated traveller-I cried ; and One, as loving, and human, and personal as myself, heard me. My Father-God, my Mother-God, up yonder in heaven, heard me. When I, His child, fell down here on the earth, I tried to get up, and began to cry. And He—I almost like to call Him my MotherGod, He knew the cry of His bairn in the street, and quicker than I can tell it, flew to my relief.
- That's My David,” said God, as He rose and came to the front door of heaven to listen, when they were badgering him, and the hounds of hell were upon him. “I knew My David's voice amongst 10,000 voices.” And God came out and scattered them right and left, and set him on high from all his enemies. And this is prayer.
Of course this is not a very philosophic way of putting it. But, after all, it is the way of putting it. “I cried to God with my voice, and He heard me out of His holy hill.” Ah ! the hell of our hell will be this, if we get there, that we knew God, and we needed God, and we perished rather than cry.
“I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me.” You see David in the morning rising and shaking the dew out of his grey hairs. And as he wakens, it all rushes upon him what has happened. But instead of giving way to despondency and saying, “ Now
the last of days has been reached, however shall I get through?"—the mere fact that he lay down last night a homeless man, a crownless king, with his fellow-subjects in revolt against him, and plenty of people wishing his ruin, and lo! this morning he is up and well; this calms him of itself. He feels himself all over, he is sound in wind and limb, and it gives him courage. “I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me.”
When I was a student, one of our most distinguished professors gave us one or two very deep and profound lectures upon the philosophy of sleep. I listened, I trust, with grave interest; but, after all, I prefer David. This is the philosophy of sleep. You lay down last night, and you woke up this morning, for it was God's good pleasure that you should. This is the last analysis of the fact to which I am referring. God was pleased that you should wake on this instead of on the other side; therefore you are here. Sleep is the image of death, the twin brother of the last enemy; and when you are lying calmly and unconsciously asleep, I should like the sinner to think of this. Think how God has you in His power. Where are you, young fellow -you who rejected God's Christ, and have never yet given your allegiance to heaven's King ?
The doctors say that in the depth of our sleep our very physical powers are at their feeblest. There comes a time when the powers of life ebb, and ebb, and ebb down to low water; and it is one of the mysteries of life why the tide turns and the waters begin to flow, and flow, and you wake up unconsciously, not enfeebled, but refreshed from that bath in the river of Lethe. But why do you come back? It is not your doing. Think how God has you in