Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of Thine anointed. — (Psalm 84:9.) David longed to be in the courts of the Lord’s house, and he conceives himself to be already there. His wishes seem to have carried him upon their wings: at any rate, he acts as if he were there, and he falls to offering prayer. He feels as if he had already come near to God, whether he had come to the tabernacle or not; and, therefore, he pours out his prayer into the ear of Him Whom he knew to be present and ready to hear.
Peradventure this may serve us for a prayer to-night. Indeed, I think it should; for there is scarcely any condition of heart which this prayer would not suit, if that condition of heart be at all right, or if there be a longing to be right.
I think we may regard these words as a prayer in three ways. They appear to be, first of all, a prayer for king David; then they might be read, I think, as a prayer for all the saints; but then, mainly and lastly — and, in truth, though last in order, this is first in importance — they are a prayer concerning our blessed Lord.
I. First, then, they are a prayer of David. “Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed.” David pens these words for the people to pray for their king. God is the true shield of Israel, and hence the verse may be read thus: “Behold, O thou God Who art our shield, and look upon the face of Thine anointed.” There are some critics who hold that that is the true reading; and, indeed, whether it be the true reading of the place or not, it is a truth. God is the shield of His people — their only true shield. From all evil doth He defend them. They are badly defended, nay, they are exposed to a thousand perils if they rely upon any other defense. But should they be defenseless apart from God He is their castle and their impregnable tower of defense, and they are secure in Him.
Therefore, the prayer is, “0 Thou Who art our shield, look down upon our king, and cover him in the day of battle! Shield him, and shield Thy people.” Or, if the reading should be, “Behold, O God our shield,” and by the term “shield” a person is intended who is afterwards called the “anointed,” then it is true in the secondary sense that kings become the shields of the nation; and such a king as David was, in the hand of God, a shield to the people Israel. It was for Israel to cry to God for David, as it is for us to cry to God on the behalf of any through whom we receive blessings from the Most High. The text says, “Look upon the face of Thine anointed.” Does it not mean, “Comfort and cheer the king: support and strengthen him; let him have a sense of Thy favor. Hear his prayers; give him acceptance with Thee. Enlighten his countenance. Let him see the brightness of Thy face that his own face may shine.”
It is a large and comprehensive prayer of a people for a king who is well beloved; and, brethren, it teaches us just this, that we ought to pray for those who are in authority over us. We too often forget the duty. I am well persuaded that if we had for a short time a taste either of despotism or of anarchy we should prize the blessings which we now enjoy, and should be more mindful of that Christian statute that prayers should be made for kings and all who are in authority. But, indeed, it is not kings merely, but God makes other men to be a shield to us, and He anoints them for certain ends. Are not all God-sent pastors in very deed the shields of the Church of God; and are they not anointed to preach glad tidings — anointed of God to bear His messages? Indeed, what is their ministry worth, if it be not in the unction of the Holy One? What power is there in it unless it be the power of the anointing of the Holy Ghost, Who shall be with them? Pray, therefore, for our brethren whom God may ,:all and set apart to be teachers for Him, and to be His mouth to the people. Pray for us. Pray for all godly ministers, and say, “Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of Thine anointed.”
How much better we might preach if our people prayed more for us! I stand here to confess frankly that from my inmost heart I attribute the large prosperity which God has given to this Church vastly more to the prayers of the people than to anything that God may have given to me. I know it is so. I am sometimes — I hope not superstitious, but I do think I am sensitively conscious of the amount of prayer there is in this Church. I seem to feel — I know not how it is, but the Spirit of God that worketh in us makes us feel — when you are prayerful, and to feel when the spirit of prayer begins to grow at all dull among us. Oh, never let us slacken in prayer ! Do plead that everyone whom God anoints to any service may have strength given him. Take up the case of those of God’s servants who are not successful. They need much to be upheld in laboring, perhaps where their non-success is no fault of theirs. Pray for them; and pray that the time of their sowing may not last for ever, but may it be followed by a blessed reaping. If we could but once get the entire Church to pray we might rest quite assured that God would bless the entire country. We often wish to see inquirers, but we must be inquirers ourselves first. “For this will I be inquired of by the House of Israel to do it for them.” A prayerful Church is a powerful Church. I think there will be less fault to find with the ministry when there shall be less fault to find with believers in their closets.
You shall find yourselves edified when you have brought your quota of prayerful anxiety with you to enrich the Church of God.
I will leave, then, this first thought. It is a prayer for David, which may be a prayer for all who are anointed to rule and all those who are anointed to preach the Gospel. Lord, send an answer of peace to the prayer in that form.
II. Secondly, shall I strain the text if I say that it appears to me to be a prayer for all saints, or may be so used at any rate, for all saints are anointed of God? Is it not said of our Lord that He was anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows? It follows, therefore, that His fellows were anointed, too, in some measure, though He was anointed above them. Is it not most certainly said, “Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and know all things “? Brethren, doth not the anointing which was poured upon the head of Christ descend even to the skirts of His garments, as the sacred ointment went to the skirts of Aaron’s robe, and we who are, as it were, the skirts of the robe of Christ have participated in the divine anointing, and we rejoice in it to-day. His name is as ointment poured forth, and in the sweetness of that name we have a share.
Well, then, may we not ask that all the anointed of God may have a look from God? Behold them, O God! Look upon the faces of all Thine anointed. Some of them want a look of sympathy. They are suffering in secret, pining in obscurity. If somebody would say half a word to them they would be cheered. If but some brother in a happier condition would but whisper a word of consolation they would be rejoiced. But, oh, if God shall look upon them, and they shall know it — if they shall understand the sympathy of Christ, and that He is touched with the feeling of their infirmities, and feels at His heart all their sighs and their groans, will it not be a great joy to them? Remember those that are in bonds, as bound with them; and remember them by praying devoutly to-night, as you think over their separate cases, “Lord, look upon Thine anointed!”
They want not only a look of sympathy, but they need to receive from God a look of love. Oh, the love-looks of the Eternal! Do not some of us know what they mean? We have been in doubt, fearing, trembling, scarcely knowing whether we were saved or not. We could not find that love in our hearts which we desired to find there, and we began to doubt whether He loved us. But some promise has been laid home to our soul, and that promise has been like a glance from the eternal eye, and it has spoken to us. That eye has spoken far more clearly and sweetly than words could do; and in our inmost soul that glance has said, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore, with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” What raptures all divine our spirit has experienced when the Lord has thus looked upon His anointed !
And then many of God’s people need a look that shall give them real help and strength, for there is power in the look of God. He looked upon the Egyptians out of the cloud, and their chariot wheels were taken off, so that they dragged them heavily. But when He looks upon His people that same look gives power to the weak; and to them that have no might that same look increases strength. Many of the hands that hang down, and the knees that are feeble need to be confirmed by an omnipotent glance from the eye of the everlasting God Who fainteth not, neither is weary. Let us pray for many of our fainting churches — our brethren that are growing weary in the ways of God, that they may be helped, supported, sustained, invigorated by a look.
And surely, dear brethren, we should pray for all the Lord’s anointed in this way. We are very apt, I am afraid, in our prayers to pray for all God’s saints nominally rather than really. “Behold, O God our shield,” Thou Who art our shield, “Look upon the face of Thine anointed,” as if it were only one face. Look upon all Thy Church as though she were what, indeed, she is in Thine eternal covenant — only one, and make her one. And look upon her — the whole of her. Let all parts of her be revived and refreshed. I am sure that when we live near to God we never desire the prosperity of our denomination of Christians at the expense of another, nor even in preference to another save only and except so far as we believe that more truth may be there. May anything that we hold of error be blasted with the breath of the Almighty, and anything that is held that is error in any other church be withered and dried up as the grass before the mower’s scythe !
May it fall and utterly perish. But every truth everywhere, and every truth holding man, may they be immortal. And grace anywhere, grace everywhere, wherever it is; if it be the grace of God, may it go on to wax stronger and stronger, and may it conquer. I would earnestly pray for every true believer in Christ, even if he were in the Church of Rome — pray that he might have grace to get out of it at any rate, and out of some other churches I could mention too — pray that he might have grace still to love and fear God and rejoice in Him, notwithstanding all the difficulties that would surround him. Lord, if Thou hast a child of Thine that is sitting on the very doorstep of hell, lift up the light of Thy countenance upon him.
Wherever he may be, or into whatsoever state he may have come, and however crotchety he may be, however cross he may become, and however often he may drive across all my notions and all my ideas, and however objectionable a person he may be, favor him with Thy presence notwithstanding that. So we ought to pray.
I must confess that it takes a deal of grace to pray much for some people.
They seem as if they were not a prayable people. One does not object to the hope that one may live with them for ever in Heaven, but to live ten minutes with them here on earth takes a deal of grace. Well, the Lord change them or change us! No doubt sometimes our imperfections jar, and one set of imperfections may be unsuitable to come into contact with another set ‘of imperfections. So let us, nevertheless, pray that God would bless the whole of His people, bringing them to Himself, looking upon them, and shedding His light upon them.
III. But now, to detain you no longer over these secondary meanings, does it not seem to you that the great meaning of the text is concerning our Lord Jesus Christ? Of whom can it be properly said with emphasis that He is our shield and the Lord’s anointed — -of whom, I say, but of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who stands between us and God — Who shields us, and has been anointed of God that He might do so ?
Beloved, we will not dwell upon these two titles of our Savior since they at once suggest their own meaning. What shield have we from justice with its fiery beams? What shield have we from Satan with his malicious machinations? What shield have we from the world or the flesh, or from any of our myriad foes? What’ shield that we can stand behind with perfect security, save Jesus Christ our Lord? Well, let us rejoice in Him as such, and feel ourselves perfectly secure when we are hidden in Him. But He is the Lord’s anointed, and there seems to be much consolation in it. Though I will not go into the world I will just refresh your memories; for if God has anointed Christ to save us He must accept Him as our Savior. If He has anointed Christ to be a priest, He must be an acceptable priest. If he has anointed Him to stand for us the representative, the intercessor, and the mediator, He must have whom God Himself appoints. Jesus Christ is no amateur Savior. He has not volunteered to take the work upon Himself without a commission; but the Spirit of the Lord is upon Him, and He hath anointed Him to be a preacher of righteousness and a Savior of sinners. Let us rejoice in this — that we use with God a name which He has Himself set forth to be a saving name, and bring before God the remembrance of an offering which He has Himself appointed. Thou art our shield, O Savior, but Thou art also God’s Anointed; and this we plead when we lift up our souls in prayer to God.
Now the desire of the prayer is that the Lord would look upon Christ. And what does that mean? Why should we desire Jehovah to look upon Christ?
Is it not in order that He may look upon us with favor and love? Christ is to us an Elder Brother. We are erring; we have been prodigals. Father, accept the family for the Elder Brother’s .sake. He has never at any time transgressed Thy commandments, and all that Thou hast belongs to Him.
Look on Him; then look on us ; and remember Him, and for His sake regard us.
Christ is more than Elder Brother, however. He is our representative and our head. When God looked upon Adam He saw the race in Adam; and Adam’s fall was the fall of us all. When God looks upon Christ He sees His elect: in Christ, and the standing of Christ is the .standing of all believers, of all His people. In Christ we died; in Christ we were buried; in Christ we rose again. In Christ we are raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places even in Him; so that when God looks upon Christ He is looking upon all His Church, looking upon all His people, with the same glance with which He regards the face of His Anointed.
And then, moreover, the Lord Jesus Christ is one with us. There is a marriage union between our souls and Christ. I must confess I often feel overpowered when I have performed the marriage ceremony here, and then have read that passage in the Ephesians where the apostle speaks of the husband leaving his father and mother and becoming one flesh with the bride, and declares that we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. It seems such an extraordinary union, so that Paul when he speaks seems to be speaking of marriage, and then he says, “I speak concerning Christ and His Church,” as if the same words would do for one as for the other. To think that all believers are married to Christ — have entered into an indissoluble union in which eternal love is the bond that never can be broken ! My soul married to the Christ of God! Oh, there is a heaven slumbering within that single thought! ‘Tis enough to make the spirit dance like David before the ark to think of being married — married so as never to be divorced — to the Son of the Highest, even to the Christ of God.
Now, we would have the Lord look upon our Bridegroom’s face. We have no comeliness, but He gives us all His beauty. When He took us He took us as we were, but He made us to be as He is. He took all our foulness, but He gave us all His righteousness; and we therefore say, “Lord, when Thou lookest on the family, do not come and look at the spouse. Come not and look at the weaker vessel, but if Thou regardest the house look at the house-band, the husband, the head, the lord, the master. He is our strength; he is our representative.”
IV. And now when the Lord does look upon Christ what does He see in Him?
I want you to think this over. I won’t try and put it in many words, but leave it for your own private meditation. It i$ a subject of that sort. I, being in Christ, desire God the Father to look at Christ instead of me. Why?
Why, because, first, when the Lord looks at Jesus Christ He sees in Him His own self, for the Lord Christ is God and one with the Father, and by a wonderful and mysterious union not to be explained; so that when He looks upon His Son He must look with ineffable love and affection because He is looking upon the godhead — the perfect godhead — in the person of Jesus Christ. There is something delightful in that — that the godhead stands for me, and God in looking at my representative sees Himself. He cannot see anything there but what shall be to Himself well pleasing. But then He sees in Christ perfect manhood. When the Lord thinks of manhood is not there enough to make Him feel weary at His heart of the very name?
Remember how, before the time of the Flood, it repented Him that He had made man upon the face of the earth; and many a time, surely, if the Lord had been as we are, we should have been destroyed. Manhood! It must be coupled in God’s mind with everything that is ungrateful, unnatural, vain, foolish, wanton, wicked. Shocking word, the word manhood! But now when the Lord looks upon His Son, He sees perfect manhood — manhood that never had a trace of sin about it — manhood the same as ours with this one exception, that it has never gone astray in thought or word or deed. God sees there what manhood can accomplish — manhood that has obeyed His law without a single flaw — manhood that has suffered for God’s glory, suffered even unto death. And God loves man because there is such a man as Christ Jesus — that there should be a possibility of a creature being made like man who should be able sinlessly to suffer, which I suppose angels could not do. God looks, therefore, upon manhood on account of what Christ has been and is, and looks upon it still with love.
But, then, beloved, there is special relationship between Jesus Christ and His own believing people, so when the Lord looks upon Jesus He sees in Him perfect obedience. That is what He expected to have from His people, and He sees it in His people’s representative. Christ stands for His people, and when the Lord calls for obedience Christ presents it: there it is. God cannot ask more from man than Christ the man presents to God. There is everything in Christ that satisfies God’s holy attributes. It cannot be said that He is not pure in Jehovah’s sight, or that He charged Him with folly.
No, but the thrice holy One takes a delight in the obedience of His only begotten Son. And so, too, ‘when God looks upon Christ He sees in Him a full atonement for all the dishonor done to His holy law. For all who have believed in Jesus there is in Christ the man, the sufferer, a sacrifice presented to God which for ever puts away all recollection of sin. “This Man when He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever sat down at the right hand of God; for He hath by one offering perfected for ever them that are set apart.” So that the remembrance of Gethsemane is to God most sweet. The recollections of the flagellation, the shame, the spittle, are upon. the mind of the Most High, and He sees the sin of His people no more. It is washed out by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. The Lord looks into Christ’s face, and He sees me there. He sees in that face the memorials of Calvary. He looks upon His hands and sees the scars; He looks upon His feet and sees the open wounds; He looks upon His side and sees there still the gash that reached His heart; for Jesus looks like a lamb that has been slain, even upon Mount Zion, and wears the memories of His priesthood still. Oh, this is delightful to think of — that God sees in Christ a perfect sacrifice, and a perfect obedience, and a perfect nature, and a perfect man.
And then, remember, He sees in Jesus Christ our justification, for though He died for our offenses He was raised again for our justification. He sees in Christ the new life — such new life as we also have received in our regeneration ; and He sees in the resurrection of His dear Son that He has given a pledge to us that He will save us, and preserve us and bring us to our resurrection, too. In fact, when He looks into Christ’s face the Father sees the covenant, for has He not said, “Behold, I have given Him as a covenant to the people”? He sees the seal, the covenant seal, the covenant sacrifice, the blood that ratified the covenant. He sees in Christ every promise made yea and amen and secure to all the seed. But, indeed, I cannot enlarge upon what the Lord God sees in Christ, for, I might truly say, God alone knows all He sees in Christ, but when He sees Him He is full of love to us because of what He sees in Him. It is well for us to recollect that our salvation does not rest upon our seeing Christ so much as it does upon God seeing Him. We are not saved except we see Him, truly, but then the real foundation of our salvation lies in God seeing Christ. The type of the passover brings that at once before us, for the Lord said, “When I see the blood I will pass over you.” The blood was not put inside the house for them to see. It was on the door, but not on the inside of the door: it was on the outside for God to see it — for the angel to see; and when God saw the blood He passed over His people. And when God looks upon Christ then it is that He hath mercy upon His people. At the same time we must not forget that we also look unto Him and are saved. This is our realization, but the real fact which is the basis — the fact which we realize is God’s having looked upon Christ, so that we .say truly, Him, and then the sinner see: Look through Jesus’ wounds on me.
Now, to gather up all in a word or two. When God the Father looks upon His Son it is with ineffable affection; it is with intimate union; it is with infinite delight. So when we are in Christ He looks upon us, and there is a union between us and Him; there is a love from Him to us; yea, there is a delight in us. The Lord delighteth in His people when He sees them in His own Son.
So now I will just entreat you present to make use of this as a prayer.
Perhaps there is a sinner here who feels his need of a Savior, and wants to know how he is to come before the Most High God. Beloved friend, I put this prayer into your mouth; may God put it into your heart. Say, “0 God, I am vile and sinful: look not on me, but look on Thine anointed. I shelter in His wounds. Be not angry with me, though I deserve it, but let Thy love to Him constrain thee to show Thy love to me!” O sinner, if you search your nature through you can find no plea which you can use with God; but if you take Jesus Christ’s person to be your argument for mercy you have prevailed. God will never deny His Son.
There is that in Jesus which at once brings to the sinner mercy when Jesus Christ is pleaded before the throne. Say, “Oh, for His sake, by His agony and bloody sweat, by His cross and passion, by His precious death and burial, by His glorious resurrection and ascension, have mercy on me, O God!” You are heard, sinner, if that be your prayer. Such a prayer cannot be unheard of the Most High.
But might net any backsliding child of God use just the same prayer tonight?
O wanderer, thou who hast lost all sense of life and love, come back. Take with you words, and come to your God in this way, and say to Him, “My Lord, I have changed, but my Redeemer has not. I have been unfaithful, but my Lord has not. I have deserved Thy wrath, but He deserves Thy love. Behold, O God my shield. ! hide behind Him. Look upon His face, and then look upon me.” Backslider, by the love of God, I pray you, use that prayer to-night and come back to your Savior whose heart you have grieved so much.
V. And might not this suit any Christian here who has been hard at work for Christ? You know, brethren, I believe those who work hardest for Christ are those who are most conscious that their work is not fit to be accepted in itself. If you find a man who rejoices in what he does, he does not do much; for he that does much has such a high idea of what he would wish to do, and what he should do, and of how he should do it, that he is always dissatisfied, and he never brings anything in his hand of his own; but he says, “Lord, establish the work of my hands. Bless it to sinners. Glorify Thyself. Make Jesus’ dear name to be sweet in the world. But I pray Thee hear Him, not for my sake, but look into His face, and say does He not deserve to be honored; does He not deserve to have precious souls? If I have sought even in the humblest way to promote His Kingdom am I not one with Thee in this desire? Dost Thou not will that He should reign?
Behold, then, the face o£ Thine anointed, and for His sake let the blessing come upon my poor services, unworthy though they be.” And might not any child of God who is pleading for the conversion of others use this prayer? I will suppose that you, dear wife, have been urging upon the Lord that He would have mercy upon your husband; or you, sister, have been seeking the conversion of your brother. You have not yet prevailed. Have you tried this argument, “0 God, look on the face of Thine anointed. Hear me by His name Who was full of tender compassion and wept over Jerusalem; by His love Who would not let the sinner die; by His heart which even after His death poured out a stream of blood and water for the sins of men. Lord, hear me, and save my brother; save my husband .; save my child.” Would not that be good pleading? And will not this do when we come to die? I scarcely know a prayer that would better become our lips when they are praying their last prayer on earth, and getting ready for their first song in Heaven, than to say here, “Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of Thine anointed,” and then the moment the prayer was over to have to say, “My God, I also have looked upon the face of Thine anointed, and now that the beatific vision has charmed me into bliss I have forgotten all the pains of dying; I have reached immortality and life; for I see the anointed of the Lord Who is for ever now my shield from death.”
Oh, yes, we might well die with this prayer upon our hearts, and then turn it into a song for ever, and say to angels and Cherubim and Seraphim, “Behold our shield, and look upon the face of God’s anointed. Gather hither all ye saints who have been redeemed by blood. Come hither all ye hosts of ministering spirits, and ye worlds afar with all your varied races of creatures. All things that have sense and intelligence and wit and eyes to gaze and hearts to love, come hither, and look upon our shield, and behold the face of God’s anointed. Was ever brighter glory? Was ever more transcendent love ?”
And He is our brother still. A man — a mart sits on the throne of God. “Unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art My son; this day have I begotten Thee.” He took not on Him the nature of angels, but He took on Him the seed of Abraham; and now between God and man there is no gap, for the man is one with God, and the Lord may truly say, “The man hath become one of us,” and we in Him have become unto the eternal God in communion and fellowship that shall last for aye.
God bring us there in His own good time! Amen.