THE GOODNESS OF THE LORD, Sermon #162
"I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD." PSA 27:13-14.
The psalmist was not a stranger to the struggles and trials that we experience in this life. He was not a stranger to the withdrawing of the Lord. In DEU 33:25 we read, "Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be." This teaches us that the Lord will prepare us for the thorny path that we will tread. He gives us iron shoes to protect us and shield us against the thorns and rocks of the steep places that we must climb.
When David longed for God’s presence, he cried out in PSA 39:12, "Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were." David understood that this life is only in preparation for a great and never-ending journey. Struggles and trials can keep us from thinking that the earth is our resting- place. We will find no rest in our flesh. As long as our hearts are set on the things of the flesh, the Lord will undermine them so they will not take root.
Every thorn in the flesh and every storm that passes over our heads are foreordained of the Lord. The psalmist said, "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD." The Apostle Paul said in 2CO 12:7-8, "And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelation, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me."
If we experience a great trial, do we beg the Lord to deliver us?
Paul continued in Verse 9, "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee." The Lord was teaching him that he would see the grace of God in the trial, "for my strength is made perfect in weakness." We learn to see our weakness. When we have a sinking feeling, like we will collapse, the Holy Spirit lifts Christ before our eyes, and we see that we are fellowshipping in the sufferings of Christ and that He is crucifying the flesh. Verse 9 continues, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." The Lord’s purpose in suffering is that the power of Christ may rest upon us.
One of the things that makes the way rough is that it is unknown.
ISA 42:16 says, "And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight.
These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them." If we could know what the future held, we might endure the trial, for we would know when we would be delivered, but the unknown is haunting.
The troubles of our paths are surely as ordained of the Lord as our glory at the end. PRO 20:24 says, "Man’s goings are of the LORD; how can a man then understand his own way?" Every trial and struggle we go through has been ordained of the Lord for the crucifying of our flesh. JER 10:23 tells us, "O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." All of the places that the Lord leads us are for the purpose of emptying us of ourselves and making us proper candidates to serve Him.
In MAT 11:28 we see the invitation of the Lord Jesus Christ to serve Him: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." We do not become labored and heavy laden with sin, guilt, and misery until the Lord has brought us through the purging process. The Lord uses the trials and struggles to make us proper candidates for the Lord’s service.
"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in
heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light," MAT 11:29-30.
David often speaks to the heart of God’s people in the book of Psalms, but in our text, as is most often the case, he speaks of his own personal experience. See the beautiful distinction between the first part of the chapter and the last. David began this Psalm by praising God, and ended by showing the foundation that gave him the ability to praise the Lord. He said, "I had fainted, unless I had believed." He could praise the Lord because he had faith to believe that he would see the goodness of God in the land of the living. He concludes, "Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD."
He begins in PSA 27:1 with, "The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" As David goes on to praise the Lord for His goodness, he describes what he means by "The LORD is...my salvation." He said in PSA 27:4, "One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple." Is salvation the mere fact of escaping hell? To David, salvation was the nearness of the Lord.
However, David also spoke of a time of trouble. PSA 27:5 says, "For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock." He needed the solid rock, Christ Jesus, as the foundation of his hope.
David clearly reveals that his pleading ground was based upon undeserved favor. He did not claim any merit. He said in PSA 27:7-8, "Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me. When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek." He pled on the basis of mercy.
In the beginning of the Psalm, David spoke of the canopy of Divine love over him that made all his oppressors as nothing to him, and yet in our text he referred to such extreme circumstances that he would have fainted. David said that if there had not been such great support holding him up, he would have fainted. "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living."
The Lord leads us through many changing circumstances, both spiritually and in providence, to wean us from this world and self.
JER 48:11 tells us, "Moab hath been at ease from his youth, and he hath settled on his lees, and hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone into captivity: therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed." We must be emptied from vessel to vessel, from trial to trial. We will be purged from this sin and then that sin. When the Lord has convicted us of the pride of our hearts and has truly humbled us, then He will convince us of the uncleanness of our hearts. Then He will teach us another sin, and we will go through another struggle to be cleansed from that sin. If this does not happen, then we will be like Moab, whose "taste remained in him," whose bitterness of sin was never removed.
The Lord does not give His people uninterrupted peace in this world lest they settle into complacency, nor does He leave them without a good hope lest they should faint and despair. That is what is so precious about our text: "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living." The Lord delivers us in His time.
HEB 12:3 says, "For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds." Trials and purging come so that we will take our eyes off of ourselves and lift our eyes unto Christ, that we might know what it is, as the Apostle Paul says, to "live by the faith of Jesus Christ." The faith of the Lord Jesus Christ is lifted before our eyes and imputed to us so we may walk by His faith.
David was led through great depths of discouragement, trouble, distress, and well nigh despair, yet he never once questioned his relationship with God. A good example of this is PSA 86:1-2; "Bow down thine ear, O LORD, hear me: for I am poor and needy. Preserve my soul; for I am holy [one whom He favors]: O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee." David spoke of a tremendous struggle, but he never questioned God’s favor to his soul.
The Lord empties His people from vessel into vessel, leaving everything of the flesh (that tends to faint) behind with the dregs, so that their only hope is to encourage themselves in the Lord their God. In HEB 11:6 we read, "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." Unless David "believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living," he would have fainted. God is a rewarder of those that wait upon Him. "Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD."
If Abraham had not been emptied of self, his heart would have fainted when God commanded him to offer up Isaac, in whom was his hope of salvation. If the Lord had not emptied Abraham from vessel to vessel, emptying him of all flesh and all human reasoning, he would have fainted.
Abraham had been emptied of all human reasoning even before he received Isaac, for he could not believe Isaac could be born! GEN
17:17 tells us, "Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?"
Abraham did not faint when God commanded him to offer up Isaac because he believed in the goodness of the Lord, "Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure," HEB 11:19. Abraham could believe because the Lord had completely stripped him of all human reasoning.
Abraham did not faint when his faith was tried because he had been established in faith through being emptied from vessel to vessel.
We read in ROM 4:19-21, "And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform." His human reasoning had been removed.
There was a secret power that kept Jacob from fainting when he had to let Benjamin go with his brothers. He "believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living." Jacob cried out of his anguish, "All these things are against me;" he thought these things would bring down his gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.
Yet within his soul, a secret power sustained him. Although Jacob may have felt ready to faint, he saw such a remarkable deliverance that his heart fainted for joy.
GEN 45:25-27 says, "And they went up out of Egypt, and came into the land of Canaan unto Jacob their father, And told him, saying, Joseph is yet alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt.
And Jacob’s heart fainted, for he believed them not. And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived." He saw the goodness of God in this life, which was the secret power within that sustained him.
Think of the trials David had from the time he was anointed by the Lord as king to the time the crown was set upon his head.
Believing in God brought David through the climax of his trials just before he became king. We see in 1-SA 30:6, "And David was greatly distressed; for the people [his own six hundred men] spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God." He remembered how the Lord had delivered him from the paw of the lion and the bear as well as the hand of the Philistine. He encouraged himself by believing in the goodness of God.
The Lord most often uses trials and deliverance in providential leadings to teach His people to trust Him for spiritual things.
David said in PSA 27:1-4, "The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple." His spiritual blessings were connected with his temporal deliverance because they required the exercise of faith.
David was tried in spiritual struggles to the point of fainting from all human reasoning. PSA 28:1 says, "Unto thee will I cry, O LORD my rock; be not silent to me: lest, if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit." Notice that David did not say that he would go down into the pit, but he felt that empty, fainting feeling in himself. When the Lord remained silent, David felt as faint as those who go down into the pit.
How different David’s language is from the first verse of the chapter before us. In PSA 27:1, he said, "The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" That is the language of one who is established in faith.
The circumstances that occasioned this fainting feeling are described in the previous verse: "Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty," PSA 27:12. He was being tried by circumstances in providence, which brought him to spiritual strength, faith, and deliverance. The Lord uses our trials in providence to bring us to spiritual victories.
The Lord tried Abraham in providence, causing him to be childless for 100 years. The Lord promised that he would have a son, but after 20 years he still did not have a son. The Lord tried his faith in providential things, but He also granted him such tremendous spiritual blessings as a result. The Lord has His purpose in providential trials to prepare us for spiritual blessings.
David provides a beautiful illustration in our text of the distinction between faith and unbelief: "I had fainted, unless I had believed." We read of the song of Moses in EXO 15. Miriam and her maidens danced and sang of the glory of God: "And in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee," EXO 15:7. Then they sang about how the Canaanites would melt away. "And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness," EXO 15:20-22.
All of this was unbelief because they only believed after they saw.
That is in contrast to David, who believed before he saw. He strengthened himself in the Lord when his own men spoke of stoning him, while the Israelites forgot how the Lord had spared them at the Red Sea. In the climax of his trial, David believed that the Lord would deliver him, which is why he did not faint. The children of Israel fainted when they came to the land of Canaan because they would not believe. When they came to the waters of Marah, just three days after they had sang that beautiful song of Moses, they could not "believe to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living," because they did not have faith. They forgot the deliverances of the Lord, and they would not believe until they saw.
Although God’s people may feel as though they will sink and never rise again, there is that inward consolation of DEU 33:27; "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." Sometimes we feel that sinking feeling in our hearts as if we are going to collapse. We may feel that we will never see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, but David said, "Unless I had believed to see." David’s faith in the everlasting arms not only allowed him to rest, but he taught Christ’s church to wait upon the Lord lest they should faint in their minds. "Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart:
wait, I say, on the LORD."
When do we wait and where do we wait? We wait when all human reasoning tells us the situation is impossible. When Abraham fell on his face and laughed, when the world mocks us that it cannot be, unless we have faith to believe what the Lord has promised He is able to perform, then we would faint in our minds. David said, "Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD."
David said, "I had fainted, unless." This expression unless is used by David in PSA 94:17-19; "Unless the LORD had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence. When I said, My foot slippeth; thy mercy, O LORD, held me up. In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul." Unless the Lord sustains us and gives us that indwelling faith, we will fall.
There is such a distinction between true faith and what some people call faith. Some people will tell you that faith is something you do, but David speaks of the indwelling, internal strength of the Holy Spirit. It is not what I do or what I believe, but "Unless the LORD had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence."
Is not this word unless the secret strength of a child of God?
There is a secret, divine power, which preserves us from despair or making shipwreck of our faith. This faith is a gift from God.
What was a help to David at just such a time of fainting? "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living." Faith is believing that God "is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." David believed that God was a rewarder. He believed that he would see the goodness of God. David did not say that he would have fainted if the Lord had not helped him out. That would have been unbelief. He had faith before he was delivered. The Israelites walked by sight; they could only believe after they saw. David could believe that the Lord was "a rewarder of them that diligently seek him," even while he was in a fainting condition. Even when he was at Ziklag and had wept until he could weep no more, he encouraged himself in the Lord. This is the distinction between faith and unbelief.
David’s faith rested upon the Rock. He not only looked to the Lord for deliverance from his temporal trials, but he could not live without the Lord’s presence. That is the key to salvation. When we have had the favor of the Lord to see His goodness in the land of the living, then we, like David, learn to love the Lord. He said in PSA 27:4, "One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple."
The goodness of God can only be comprehended in proportion to our realization of our unworthiness. David said in Verse 7 of our chapter, "Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me." David did not plead on the basis of any merit, nor any foundation but mercy.
Very often, when we seem to be in a fainting condition, the Holy Spirit will send deliverance by lifting the Lord Jesus Christ up before our eyes of faith. Right in the midst of the most grievous trial, the Lord gives us a glimpse of the Lord Jesus Christ and we see that we are only walking in the footsteps of our Saviour. We read in HEB 12:3, "For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds." When it seems as if our enemies will prevail over us, the Lord comes with this Scripture to "consider him." True faith is when the Holy Spirit sets before our eyes how the Lord Jesus Christ was in that same place. In the midst of such circumstances, Christ is made precious to the soul. When we see that we are fellowshipping in His sufferings, all of these things strengthen us.
The circumstances do not necessarily change, but the fainting is taken away. Our hearts can be totally transformed from a fainting feeling into a state of rejoicing when our eyes are opened to see that we are walking in the footsteps of Jesus, even though our circumstances have not altered. Even though the trial is not removed, we can rejoice and exalt the Lord because Christ is lifted up.
The Lord uses these struggles so that we will learn to "know Christ and him crucified." He was crucified not only upon the cross, but also in every step of His life by denying Himself. To walk in the footsteps of Christ is to take up our cross and follow Him, crucifying everything of flesh and self.
This is what happened to Moses after Israel had sinned so grievously in making a golden calf. EXO 33:18-19 tells us, "And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory. And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy." The circumstances never changed; Moses was still in the wilderness with the same rebellious house of Israel, but "the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by," EXO 33:21-22.
Moses was blessed through this struggle with the rebellious house of Israel. God had told Moses that He would destroy them in a moment and make of Moses a great nation, but Moses replied, "What will the heathen say? For thy great name’s sake, have mercy." So God proclaimed that He would be gracious to those very people who He might have destroyed because He delights in mercy.
God caused all His goodness to pass before Moses. In that we see the glory of God. During your greatest trials, has the Lord ever reminded you how He preserved, spared, and blessed you in your childhood? He will cause all of His goodness to pass before you so that in the present hour you can see His great salvation. In our struggles, we can hide in the cleft of the Rock, in the cleft side of our Saviour, which is why He allows these trials. David said, "I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living." In this lifetime, the Lord shows us how He has blessed us, and we see His goodness and salvation.
Oh, beloved, there is no greater blessing to be obtained in this life than to receive the assurance of our faith that God has put us in the cleft of that blessed Rock, and that we are covered in the shadow of those crucified hands. The Lord shows us by faith that our names are written on His crucified hands, that we are treading in the footsteps of our Saviour in the way of the cross. He is crucifying the things of the flesh and all human reasoning. He empties us from vessel to vessel, leaving the dregs behind each time, which is a type of the work of sanctification. He sanctifies us by bringing us through the furnace of affliction.
The Apostle Paul said in 1TH 4:18, "Wherefore comfort one another with these words." Let us comfort each other with this: "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD." When are we to be of good courage? When we are fainting in our flesh, and our own men talk of stoning us, we may encourage ourselves in the Lord.