If the Lord deliver us from the oppression of man, and "make even our enemies to be at peace with us;" still, if we are in spiritual health, we shall be restless and uneasy, until He make His face to shine upon us. And in the Scripture revelation of God, "dwelling between the cherubim," and therefore on the mercy-seat—with the "rainbow," the emblem of "the covenant of peace" "round about the throne," as if to invite the access of sinners from every quarter—have we not full warrant to plead, "You who dwell between the cherubim, shine forth; stir up Your strength, and come and save us? Turn us again, O God; and cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved." Others we see eagerly asking, "Who will show us any good?" Alas! they will discover in the end, that they have "spent their money for that which is not bread, and their labor for that which satisfies not." The believer's incessant cry is—Let me see "the King's face." This is a blessing worth praying for. It is his heart's desire, his present privilege, and what is infinitely better—his sure and everlasting joy, "They shall see His face."
It is both important and interesting to mark the repetitions—always new—in this beautiful Psalm. David had just before prayed, "Look upon me, and be merciful unto me." Perhaps another passing cloud had darkened his sky. Again he darts up the same prayer, Make Your face to shine upon Your servant. Such cries in the mouth of this holy servant of God, must have been most hopeless petitions—no, the expression of the most daring presumption—had he not been acquainted with the only true way of access to God, joyfully led to renounce every other way, and enabled diligently to improve this acceptable approach to his God. Indeed whatever obscurity may hang over the question relating to the faith of the Old Testament believers, their confidence at the throne of grace shows them to have attained a far more distinct perception of Christian privilege, through the shadowy representations of their law, than is commonly imagined. Else how could they have been so wrestling and persevering in their petitions; overcoming the spirit of bondage, and breathing out the spirit of adoption in the expression of their wants and desires before the Lord? The prayers of the Old Testament church are not more distinguished for their simplicity, spirituality, and earnestness, than for their unfettered, evangelical confidence. When they approached the footstool of the Divine Majesty, with the supplications—Make Your face to shine upon Your servant—You who dwell between the cherubim, shine forth—it was as if they had pleaded—'Reconciled Father—You who sit upon a throne of grace, look upon us—Abba, Father, be gracious to us!'
Many, however, seem to despise this child-like confidence. They go on in heartless complaining and uncertain apprehensions of their state; as if doubting was their life, and as if they might rest upon the presumption, that the shining of God's face upon them is not indispensable to their salvation. But will they then be content to "be saved, yet so as by fire," instead of having an "entrance ministered unto them abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior?" Is it enough for them to be just alive, when "the things that remain," from want of being duly cherished, "are ready to die?" If they can be safe without a conscious interest in the favor of God, can they be so without the desire for it? Is not this assurance attainable? Is it not commanded? Is it not most desirable? This cold contentment clouds the integrity of their profession. For God's real people are living habitually either in spiritual enjoyment, or in restless dissatisfaction. Their dark seasons are times of wrestling supplication—seasons of deep humiliation, tenderness of spirit, and constant waiting upon God, until He makes His face to shine upon His servants. They can dispense with ordinary comforts. But it is death to be without Him. "All their springs are in Him." They estimate their happiness by the shining—and their misery by the clouding—of His face. This is the true principle of assurance, even if this most important blessing be not sensibly enjoyed.
How then stands the case between us and God? From ourselves originates the mist, which darkens the shining. His sovereign free grace blots the cloud away. We raise the mountains of separation. The Almighty power of our great Zerubbabel removes them. To ourselves then be all the shame. To Him be all the praise!
But how may we realize more constant sunshine?—Apart from the hindrances just alluded to, others are mainly to be found in mistaken or contracted views of the Gospel. Hence, therefore, the value of enlarged apprehensions of the Gospel of the grace of God—of its fullness, satisfying every claim, and supplying every want—of its freeness, unencumbered with conditions, and holding forth encouragement to the most unworthy—of its holiness, restraining the sinful hindrances to enjoyment—and of its security, affording permanent rest in the foundations of the covenant of grace. The life of faith will thus be maintained in more full contemplation of Jesus, and renewed reliance upon Him; and walking in closer communion with Him, our hope will be enlivened with the constant sense of reconciliation and love.
We need not wonder at the Psalmist's persevering determination to seek the shining of the Lord's face. This high privilege is connected no less with the Christian's public usefulness than with his personal enjoyment. For who is most likely to win others to the love of the Savior, and to the service of God—to enliven the drooping soul, or to recover the backslider? Is not he, who lives most in the sunshine of the Gospel, and who therefore has most to tell of its heavenly joy? But you say, 'My heart, alas! is so cold and barren, my affections so languid, my desires so faint, my sky so often clouded. I do not forget that I am a child; but a child in disgrace is too often my dishonorable character and wretched condition.' Then exercise your faith in going where David was accustomed to go. As a penitent child, "Arise and go to your Father" "only acknowledge your iniquity"—tell your complaint before Him—resort much and often to Him; be importunate; be patient; plead the name and merits of Jesus; and you will not, you cannot plead in vain; you will once more walk happily, holily, as well as confidently, in the light of your Father's countenance. And in marking more carefully His gracious dealings with your soul, you will be kept from formality, hardness, and despondency.
But we cannot expect this shining, save in the paths of God; and he who looks for comfort, while careless of duty, is only the victim of his own delusions. Well, therefore, does the child of God—longing for higher enjoyment, and learning more of his own ignorance, add this petition—Teach me Your statutes. And He who taught us this petition, will Himself, according to His promise, be our teacher in the way of holiness. And if, under His teaching, in the pathway to glory—our God makes His face to shine upon us, what more want we to beguile the toil and weariness of the way? And if one beam of His countenance, though but dimly seen through this sinful medium, exceeds the glories of ten thousand worlds—what will it be to live under the perpetual cloudless shining of His face!
Believer! does not this prospect invigorate every step of your journey? Your Lord is at hand. Soon will He appear to gladden with His inexpressible smile every soul that is in readiness for Him. Oh! seek to realize His approach, and with holy aspirations and joyful expectancy respond to His welcome voice. "He which testifies these things says, Surely I come quickly: Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!"
"Make your face to shine upon your servant." Oppressors frown, but do you smile. They darken my life, but do you shine upon me, and all will be bright The Psalmist again declares that he is God's servant; and therefore he values his Master's smile. He seeks for no favor from others, but only from his own Lord and Master.
"And teach me your statutes." He seeks holy education as the chief token of divine love. This is the favor which he considers to be the shining of the face of God upon him. If the Lord will be exceeding gracious, and make him his favorite, he will ask no higher blessing than still to be taught the royal statutes. See how the good man craves after holiness! this is the choicest of all gems in his esteem. As we say among men that a good education is a great fortune, so to be taught of the Lord is a gift of special grace. The most favored believer needs teaching; even when he walks in the light of God's countenance, he has still to be taught the divine statutes, or he will transgress.