Precious Promises

“The Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” —Psalm 84:11

THE Lord tells us that as the heavens are higher than the earth so are his ways higher than our ways and his thoughts than our thoughts. (Isa. 55:9) In order that we may be able to grasp the high thoughts of God, he has used many illustrations and symbols. This is true regarding every aspect of his loving plan of salvation, and particularly so in connection with the many promises he has made to assure us of his loving interest in his consecrated people and of his watchcare over them.

Over and over again throughout his Word, God has told of his love and has assured us that he will supply all our needs. He has promised us strength when we are weak, forgiveness when we err, and wisdom when we need guidance. These are marvelous promises, which we lay hold upon by faith, promises by which we are encouraged to continue on in the path of righteousness, assured of final victory if we continue to put our trust in him.

But the fact that the Lord, in making these promises, has used various illustrations to help us grasp their reality and the intimacy of our relationship to him makes them even more valuable to us, makes of them the “exceeding great and precious promises” by which we are made partakers of the divine nature.—II Pet. 1:4

Take, for example, the one used in our text: “The Lord God is a sun.” What thoughts of brightness and cheer this conjures up before us! How often the immediate circumstances of life are dark and foreboding. This is true in the experiences of all mankind. The reign of sin and death has, of course, a blighting effect upon all. But we who know the Lord find ourselves completely out of harmony with our surroundings in the world. The things that afford some joy to the world mean little or nothing to us; so the darkness that covers the earth because of Satan’s rulership would be most depressing except for the fact that the Lord is our “sun.”

In our struggles against our various adversaries—the world, the flesh, and the Devil—the outlook often seems dark; and should it continue, we would become discouraged and would faint by the wayside. But the Lord is watching over us; and when he sees we have learned the needed lesson, the dark clouds of despair with which we are surrounded part, and we see the sun—our “Sun.” Almost instantly all is light around us; we walk with a firmer step; and our hearts rejoice, because we know that the Lord is with us and has shone upon us.

Also a “Rock”

Over and over again the Scriptures speak of the Lord being our “Rock” and our salvation. In Psalm 61:2 we read: “From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.” “When my heart is overwhelmed”—how often this is the experience of the Lord’s people.

The illustration is of one walking through the lowlands, where there are sinking sands and miry clay and it looks as though escape is impossible. But then a rock appears, a rock that is on higher ground, higher than the traveler; and upon attaining it, he is able, by reaching up and taking hold upon it, to lift himself up to safety. David uses this to illustrate for us the fact that when we are traveling through sloughs of despair or when the sinking sands of human help fail there is a “Rock,” one that is on higher ground, to which we can cling, assured that when we do we will be safe. That “Rock” is the Lord!

David said, “From the end of the earth will I cry unto Thee.” (Ps. 61:2) No matter where we are or what the circumstances may be, the Lord is not far away. “The Rock that is higher than I” is always within reach; and because the Lord is the sunlight of our lives, we need only to look up, when we might otherwise be “overwhelmed,” and there we will be able to see the Rock.

A “Shield”

The Lord is also a “shield” unto his people. To Abram God said, “Fear not, … I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” (Gen. 15:1) This was true of Abram, the father of the faithful, and it has been true of all God’s people since. In this promise the Lord uses a shield to symbolize the thought of protection. To Abraham much of the protection was along physical lines, but with us of the Gospel Age it is largely along spiritual lines.

God was also Abraham’s “exceeding great reward.” Although the patriarch had left his own country and had gone into a strange land, God had prospered him; and ultimately the promise of a seed was fulfilled to this “friend of God.” And how richly the Lord rewards us as we journey on toward the heavenly Canaan, confident that since he is our shield no harm can come to us.

God’s protection is over his people in various ways. In Psalm 91:4 we read that the Lord’s truth will be our “shield and buckler.” We are being protected as new creatures. The attacks against us are made on the mind. The enemy’s arrows are often “bitter words” and deceptive, lying words—words designed to cast doubt and instill fear into our hearts and minds. To protect us against these poisoned darts of the Adversary, the Lord has given us his truth as a shield. Indeed, the truth constitutes a complete “armor,” with its shield of faith, its breastplate of righteousness, its helmet of salvation, its girdle of truth, and its sandals of peace.—Eph. 6:13-17

But when we think of the shield alone as being the truth that protects us against our enemies, we can consider it from a more intimate standpoint, as the truth contained in God’s promises that he will never leave or forsake us. We rejoice in God’s great plan of salvation for all mankind; but how precious it is to hear him say to us, individually: “Be not afraid, I am thy shield. Continue to put your trust in me. Go often to the throne of grace, and you will find strength to help in your every time of need. Your enemies may be hateful and strong; but greater is he who is for you than all who be against you, for I am on your side and will not permit you to be harmed.”

The psalmist details the matter for us, saying: “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.”—Ps. 91:5-11

Yes, God, by his promises, assures us of protection; and he implements those promises by constituting the angels as our guardians—“The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.” (Ps. 34:7) The angels are real beings, powerful, and equipped with needed knowledge of God’s will for each of his people. They know when to ease the burden, when to make the way more smooth. They know when to part the clouds that we may see the “sun,” that its enlightening, warming rays may dispel the darkness with which our hearts may be overwhelmed.

Resting in the Lord

Because David, the man after God’s own heart, had full confidence in the Lord’s wisdom and ability to care for him, he could sleep even when his enemies were increasing against him. One such occasion was when Absalom, his son, rebelled against his rulership and endeavored to establish himself as king of Israel. This was a severe trial for David. For anyone to attempt to dethrone him and rule in his stead would have been serious enough, but for his own beloved son to be the traitor was a crushing blow.

It was under such circumstances that David prayed: “Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! Many are they that rise up against me. Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me.”—Ps. 3:1-5

When David thus cried unto the Lord for help, it was in the spirit of full resignation to whatever the Lord’s will for him might be. Even while a fugitive, with Absalom and his fellow conspirators taking over the government in Jerusalem, David said to his loyal friend, Zadok: “Carry back the Ark of God into the city: if I shall find favor in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, and show me both it, and his habitation. But if he thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him.”—II Sam. 15:25,26

From this we gather that David’s ability to sleep under such strained circumstances was not because he was sure the Lord would save him from his enemies but because he was fully resigned to the Lord’s will in the matter. This is a necessary attitude of mind and heart for all who would benefit most from the promises of God. The Lord is not a shield to protect us in having our own way but rather to hinder our enemies from preventing his will from being carried out in our lives.

“I laid me down and slept”—how wonderfully this expresses the thought of full confidence in the Lord’s love and care. (Ps. 3:5) But if the turbulent situation in which we are seeking the Lord’s protection is one of our own making and we are insisting that the Lord help us carry out our will in the matter, then we will have no peace, no rest. Looking back upon the experience, we will not be able to say, “I laid me down and slept.” The proper thought is expressed by the poet:

“I love thy will, O God!
It is my joy, my rest;
It glorifies my common task,
It makes each trial blest.”

The marginal translation of Psalm 84:9 reads: “Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed. For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I would choose rather to sit at the threshold in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.” Here again is the expression of humility before the Lord and a desire to be in harmony with him, even at the loss of earthly advantage.

So, just to be near to the Lord because we love him and to want his will to be done in every circumstance of life are the prerequisites for full assurance that “he is our shield and exceeding great reward.”

His Loving-kindness

“The Lord will give grace and glory,” our text declares; that is, he will show us his favor—his loving-kindness is the thought contained in the Hebrew word here translated “grace.” How many wonderful ways the Lord bestows his loving-kindness upon his people! David wrote: “How excellent is thy loving-kindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures; for with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.”—Ps. 36:7-9

The Lord’s “house” during the present age is his people, and how “fat” indeed are the provisions he has made for them! In this end of the age especially, he has provided “meat in due season” for his household, the glorious harvest truths of his divine plan of salvation for both the church and the world. We now have rich, nourishing and stimulating doctrines of his Word upon which to feed and thereby become strong in the Lord and grow up into our Head, Christ Jesus.

The Lord has also made us to “drink of the river of his pleasures.” God’s pleasure is in all his works—“Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created,” said the “four and twenty elders.” (Rev. 4:11) We share this pleasure with our Heavenly Father, for we know his human creation will ultimately be reconciled to him and will praise and magnify his holy name throughout all eternity.

God takes special pleasure in his “new creation.” To Jesus he said, “Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22) What great pleasure we also take in Jesus! He is our beloved Elder Brother, our Examplar, our Advocate, our Captain, our High Priest, our Head. He is to us the chiefest among ten thousand, the One altogether lovely—a constant friend and companion. In him indeed we have a “river of pleasure.”

Again we read, “The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear [reverence] him, in those that hope in his mercy.” (Ps. 147:11) A similar thought is expressed in Psalm 149:4: “The Lord taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation.” Here is another of the Lord’s rivers of pleasure of which he has given us the privilege of “drinking.”

Do we find pleasure in our association with the Lord’s people—the blessed people of God who have heard the joyful sound of present truth? (Ps. 89:15,16) Among the Lord’s people there are not many wise, not many rich, not many noble insofar as the world’s standards are concerned; but they are prized very highly by the Lord and should be, and are, by one another.

The fraternity of Christian brotherhood is very precious to each of the Lord’s consecrated people. There is nothing else like it in the world. To be a part of it and to experience the “blest tie that binds” the hearts of all its members together in the bonds of Christian love is one of the “rivers of pleasure” that refreshes and rejoices the hearts of all to whom the Lord is a “sun and shield.”

In Isaiah 53:10 reference is made to another “pleasure” of the Lord, another “river of pleasure.” The prophecy of this text concerns the purpose for which Jesus came to earth, that is, to carry out the loving plan of the Creator for the reconciliation and restoration of the fallen human race. The whole world of mankind restored to life as perfect human beings is spoken of in this text as the “seed” (the children) of Christ. Jesus was “cut off out of the land of the living” without children; yet, as Isaiah declares, he “shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasures of the Lord shall prosper in his hands.”

We are sure to make frequent reference to those things that give us pleasure; and God, likewise, throughout his Word, speaks over and over again of his great plan to restore the dead world to life. Peter refers to that plan for “restitution” and says it was “spoken by the mouth of all [God’s] holy prophets since the world began.”—Acts 3:19-21

This “pleasure” of Jehovah was part of the “joy” that was set before Jesus, the joy that enabled him to endure the cross and despise the shame associated with laying down his life for the sins of the world. We also share this “river of pleasure.” The knowledge of this glorious truth of the divine plan satisfies our longings as nothing else could do. We love to talk about it and to do all we can to make it known to others. It is a story that never grows old, a veritable river of pleasure indeed.

God’s purpose in the “great salvation” of the Gospel-Age church is another river of pleasure. It is our privilege to cooperate with our Heavenly Father in attaining to this “high calling.” Paul admonishes us to “work out” our own salvation with reverence and patience, for, he adds, “it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”—Phil. 2:12,13

And we can be assured that, regardless of how difficult the way may be or how many discouraging experiences may tend to turn us aside from our course of sacrifice, He who is our sun and shield will continue to work in us to accomplish his good pleasure. “Fear not,” Jesus said, “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”—Luke 12:32

The Heavenly Father has “predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ,” “according to the good pleasure of his will.” He has also made known to us “the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.”—Eph. 1:5,9,10

And Glory

Surely those to whom the Lord is a sun and shield are a favored people. We are blessed by his “grace,” his loving-kindness, as a rich present inheritance, and by an “eternal weight of glory” for a future inheritance. In his prayer on behalf of his followers, Jesus said to his Father: “The glory which thou gayest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.”—John 17:22,23

The glory of the divine nature and the glory of the kingdom had been given to Jesus by promise, and Jesus had promised the same glory to his disciples. They were to sit on “thrones”; they were to have the “kingdom”; they were to do “greater works” than he had done while in the flesh; they were to have a resurrection of “life,” and they were to be with him in the “place” he went away to “prepare.”

After the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost, the apostles understood the meaning of these wonderful promises of “glory.” John wrote: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: … and it doth not yet appear what we shall he: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”—I John 3:1-3

Peter wrote: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”—I Pet. 4:12,13

Paul likens this promised “glory” to the bright shining of the countenance of Moses when he came down from the mountain bringing with him the tables of the Law. (II Cor. 3:3-12) In the last verse of this chapter, Paul speaks of our beholding the “glory of the Lord” in a glass, or mirror, and says that we are “changed into the same image from glory to glory.” Then in the 17th verse of the next chapter he declares that our “light affliction,” which is but “for a moment”—very temporary—cannot be compared with the “eternal weight of glory,” which is being worked out in us by the “light” affliction.

James wrote: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”—James 1:12

Jude exhorts, “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” Closing his epistle, he commends us to Him who is able to keep us from falling, the One who is our “sun and shield” and will present us “faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.”—vss. 21,24

No “Good Thing” Withheld

Our text concludes with the blessed assurance that no “good thing” will be withheld from those who walk uprightly. Yes, every “good gift and every perfect gift” that cometh down from the “Father of lights” will be ours to enjoy.

Let us take heed lest we permit these good gifts of God to become commonplace. First, there is that “unspeakable gift” of his beloved Son! How we should continue to treasure him! Through him we have the gift of life. We are also richly blessed by the gift of the Holy Spirit—its enlightenment, its comfort, its strength. By it we are also begotten again to a new hope of life, becoming new creatures in Christ Jesus.

Paul speaks of the “gifts” of apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists. (Eph. 4:11) All these gifts are shared in common by the Lord’s people and are a part of the means by which the Lord is to us a “sun and shield.”

In addition to these gifts of God that are shared and enjoyed by all his people, he continually showers us individually with “good things” that are needful in order to make our calling and election sure. The guardian angels know exactly what each one of the Lord’s people needs.

It is well to realize, however, that the Lord does not promise to provide all the things that we might think to be good and that we may think we need. There are many things we may ordinarily think of as being “good,” such as the truth, fellowship with the brethren, opportunities of service, a reasonable measure of health with which to serve the Lord.

If we remain humble before the Lord and pure of heart, we will always enjoy the blessings of the truth. However, for reasons known to him, he might not think it “good” for us to be too robust in health. He may know that a trial of ill health would be the very best thing for us. We know that he is able to cause “all things” to work together for our good. We do not need to understand why the Lord permits us to have this trial that is bearing down so heavily upon us today. All we know and all we need to know is that he loves and cares, that he is our sun and shield, and that he gives his very best to those who leave the choice with him.

Our joy and our comfort, therefore, will continue to be in the fact that because the Lord is the light of our lives we can walk in the dark with him and not lose our way; and, although we have enemies within and foes without, nevertheless, because he is our refuge, our strength, our shield, our Rock, no harm can come to us. Praise the Lord for the assurance that because he is our sun and shield all “good things” are ours to enjoy and that he is able to turn into good those experiences which, while unpleasant, he is causing to work out for us the promised “eternal weight of glory”!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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