What! does the Psalmist then seek his comfort from the very hand that strikes him? This is genuine faith, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." The very arm that seems to be uplifted for my destruction, shall be to me the arm of salvation.
Several of the preceding verses have spoken of affliction. The Psalmist now prays for alleviation under it. But of what kind? He does not "beseech the Lord, that it might depart from him." No. His repeated acknowledgments of the supports given under it, and the benefits he had derived from it, had reconciled him to commit its measure and continuance to the Lord. All that he needs, and all that he asks for, is, a sense of His merciful kindness upon his soul. Thus he submits to His justice in accumulated trials, and expects consolation under them, solely upon the ground of His free favor. Indeed, it is hard to hold on under protracted affliction without this precious support. Patience may restrain murmuring but a sense of love alone keeps from fainting. Holiness is our service—affliction is our exercise—comfort is our gracious reward. All the candles in the world, in the absence of the sun, can never make the day. The whole earth, in its brightest visions of fancy, destitute of the Lord's love, can never cheer nor revive the soul. Indeed, it matters little where we are, or what we have. In the fullness of refreshing ordinances, unless the Lord meets us, and blesses us with His merciful kindness for our comfort, it is "a thirsty land, where no water is." Absalom might as well have been at Geshur as at Jerusalem, so long as he "saw not the king's face." Nothing that the Lord "gives us richly to enjoy" will satisfy, if this source of refreshment be withheld. The worldling's inquiry is, "Who will show us any good?" The Christian forms his answer into a prayer, "Lord! lift up the light of Your countenance upon me." Let Your merciful kindness be for my comfort. This gives the enjoyment of every real good, and supplies the place of every fancied good. It is a blessing that never cloys, and will never end: and every fresh taste quenches the thirst for earthly pleasures. "Whoever drinks of this water"—says our Divine Savior, "shall thirst again. But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst!" "Delight yourself in the Lord; and He shall give you the desires of your heart."
But, Reader, do you wish to realize this comfort? Then seek to approach your God by the only way of access. Learn to contemplate Him in the only glass in which a God of love is seen, "in the face of Jesus Christ." Guard against looking for comfort from any other source. Beware especially of that satisfaction in creature-cisterns which draws you away from "the fountain of living waters." Learn also to prize this comfort supremely, and not to be content without some enjoyment, or even with a scanty measure of enjoyment; but rather let every day's refreshment be made a step for desiring and attaining renewed and sweeter refreshment for tomorrow. Some, however, appear to look at David's experience, as if at present they could hardly expect to reach its happiness: and so they go on in a low, depressed, and almost sullen state, refusing the privileges, which are as freely offered to them as to others. But such a state of mind is highly dishonorable to God. Let them earnestly plead their interest in the word of promise—According to Your word to Your servant. Let them lay their fingers upon one or all of the promises of their God. Let them spread before the Lord His own handwriting and seals; and their Savior has said, "According to your faith be it unto you." "The king is held in the galleries;" and, if He should "make as though He would go farther," He is willing that we should "constrain Him, saying, Abide with us." No veil now but the veil of unbelief need hinder us from seeing an unclouded everlasting smile of merciful kindness upon our heavenly Father's reconciled face. Only let us see to it, that He is the first, the habitual object of our contemplation, the satisfying well-spring of our delight—that He is the one desire, to which every other is subordinate, and in which every other is absorbed.
Lord Jesus! I would seek for a renewed enjoyment in Your merciful kindness. I would not forget, that it was this that brought You down from heaven—that led You to endure the death of the cross—that has washed me in Your precious blood—that visits me with many endearing tokens of Your love. Oh, let all my days be spent in the sense of this merciful kindness for my comfort, and in rendering to You the unworthy returns of grateful, filial service.
Having confessed the righteousness of the Lord, he now appeals to his mercy, and while he does not ask that the rod may be removed, he earnestly begs for comfort under it Righteousness and faithfulness afford us no consolation if we cannot also taste of mercy, and, blessed be God, this is promised us in the word, and therefore we may expect it. The words "merciful kindness" are a happy combination, and express exactly what we need in affliction: mercy to forgive the sin, and kindness to sustain under the sorrow. With these we can be comfortable in the cloudy and dark day, and without them we are wretched indeed; for these, therefore, let us pray unto the Lord, whom we have grieved by our sin, and let us plead the word of his grace as our sole reason for expecting his favor. Blessed be his name, notwithstanding our faults we are still his servants, and we serve a compassionate Master. Some read the last clause, "according to your saying unto your servant"; some special saying of the Lord was remembered and pleaded: can we not remember some such "faithful saying," and make it the groundwork of our petitioning? That phrase, "according to your word," is a very favorite one; it shows the motive for mercy and the manner of mercy. Our prayers are according to the mind of God when they are according to the word of God.