Bulletin Edition November 2020


John MacDuff

“This is the resting place, let the weary rest; and this is the place of repose”—

“Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, Your justice like the great deep. How priceless is Your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of Your wings. For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light.” Psalm 36:5, 6, 7, 9)

These verses sound like the rustling of many palm-leaves around the wells of the desert.

The King of Israel, himself a prince among pilgrims, when he wrote this psalm, was probably in the wilderness, not of Sinai, but of Judah—near the Dead Sea, from the margin of whose waters wild cliffs rose to the height of 1500 feet. As he gazes up to the heavens, he sees written on their blue vault, “God is mercy,” “God is love.” He looks to the clouds as they gather, gradually dimming and darkening the azure; but he sees them spanned with the rainbow of “faithfulness.” He looks to the mountains, their tops resting amid these clouds and rainbow-tints; and beholds them radiant with “justice”—stable, immutable uprightness. He gazes down into the depths of the lake, sleeping at their base, and reflecting their forms in its calm mirror. He sinks his plummet-line, but in vain! It is too deep to be measured. “Your judgments (Your providential dealings) are “a great mystery.” Jehovah’s righteousness, like the great mountains, is visible; plain to see. But His judgments are often like the lake beneath. Their unsounded mysteries lie beyond mortal understanding, far down below!

Next (ver. 7), as a saint of God, he flees for refuge “under the shadow of the Almighty’s wings”—a beautiful emblem of security; one used by the Savior Himself, many centuries later, on the occasion of His weeping over Jerusalem—”How excellent is Your loving-kindness, O God, therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings.”

Then, he adds, “You shall make them drink of the river of Your pleasures; For with You is the fountain of life.” Another figure still, perhaps, also suggested by a well-known spring which survives to this day in that desolate waste, amid the rocks of the wild goats, bursting from a shelf or cleft in the mountain—”For with You,” as it has been rendered, is the “spring of immortality”—”in Your light we shall see light.” He here speaks not of his present blessings, but of his future prospects. He looks forward, anticipating the time when all the past irregularities in God’s moral government shall be explained. “We shall see light!” we shall behold Him, not in a glass, darkly; not as now, “through the lattice;” but “face to face”—knowing experimentally the reality of His own divine beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

The psalm begins with a minor note—”The sinfulness of the wicked” (ver. 1). It describes the pang with which the upright believer witnesses the unblushing sin and godlessness around him—speculative infidelity, practical atheism—the iniquity, the deceit, the “devising of evil”—hatching schemes of ambition and sin in their very beds—the world’s crooked policy, tortuous ways, and unprincipled ends. All this may well fill the righteous with painful care and sadness. But he looks from man, to God. He looks from this surging sea, troubled and restless by waves of human passion and discord, to the giant mountains of the Divine faithfulness towering grandly overhead. Dominating all, he sees the Divine mercy “in the heavens.” Jehovah’s mercy in Christ, as a Covenant God, is high above the great flood, and the great mountains and the great clouds.

In this sublime contemplation he rests. He knows—though at times “deep may call to deep;” though these hilltops be muffled in angry tempests, those heavens darkened with murky vapors—yet the day is coming—”the morning without clouds,” when all shall be made bright like “the clear shining after the rain.” “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.”

The impersonation of justice, in the Greek and Roman mythology, with bandaged eyes and equally-balanced scales, was the faint image of a grander truth. “He judges righteous judgment.” “Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun!” “By faith,” says one who is now experiencing the sublime reality, “you are enabled to say ‘All is well!’ and if a voice could reach you from the Everlasting, would it not re-echo back, ‘All is well’?”

May this lofty psalm, of which these are the keynotes, be sung by us, not in the Church of earth alone, but in the Church of the firstborn: when its beautiful and magnificent imagery will come to be truly fulfilled—resting under the shadow of the Heavenly Palm, the shelter and sanctuary of Jehovah’s wings; ‘feasting on the abundance of His house,’ and ‘drinking of the river of His pleasures;’ taking up, through all eternity, the joyous strain these opening words suggest—”O give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His Mercy endures forever!”

“Blessed day, which hastens fast,

End of conflict and of sin;

Death itself shall die at last,

Heaven’s eternal joys begin.

Then eternity shall prove,

God is Light, and God is Love!”

“Continue Your love to those who know You, Your righteousness to the upright in heart.”

Our refuge!

(Joseph Philpot, “An Immutable God

 and a Strong Consolation” 1866)

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my

 deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take

 refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my

 salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:2

On every side are hosts of enemies ever

invading our souls, trampling down every

good thing in our hearts, accompanied by

a flying troop of temptations, doubts, fears,

guilt and bondage sweeping over our soul.

And we, as regards our own strength, are

helpless against them.

But there is a refuge set before us in the

gospel of the grace of God. The Lord Jesus

Christ, as King in Zion, is there held up

before our eyes as . . .

  the Rock of our refuge,

  our strong Tower,

  our impregnable Fortress;

and we are encouraged by every precious promise

and every gospel invitation when we are overrun

and distressed by these wandering, ravaging,

plundering tribes to flee unto and find a safe

refuge in Him.

“Keep me safe, O God, for in You I take refuge.”

     Psalm 16:1

“O Lord my God, I take refuge in You; save

 and deliver me from all who pursue me.”

     Psalm 7:1

God is our abode, our home!

(Charles Spurgeon)

“The eternal God is your refuge.” Deuteronomy 33:27

The word “refuge” may be translated “abiding place”—which gives the thought that God is our abode, our home.

There is a fullness and sweetness in the metaphor, for our home is dear to our hearts—although it may be the humblest cottage or the scantiest garret. But dearer far is our blessed God, who is our eternal refuge.

It is at home that we are safe—here we shut the world out and dwell in quiet security. Just so, God is our shelter and retreat—our abiding refuge.

It is at home that we take our rest—it is there that we find repose after the fatigue and toil of the day. In the same way, our hearts find rest in God when, wearied with life’s conflict, we turn to Him, and our soul dwells at ease.

At home, also, we let our hearts loose—we are not afraid of being misunderstood nor of our words being misconstrued. Just so, when we are with God—we can commune freely with Him, laying open all our hidden desires.

Home, too, is the place of our truest and purest happiness. In the same way, it is in God that our hearts find their deepest delight.

“God is our refuge and strength—a very present help in times of trouble!” Psalm 46:1

He drank the whole cup!

(Letters of John Newton)

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble! Therefore we will not be afraid, though the earth trembles and the mountains topple into the depths of the seas!” Psalm 46:1-2

November 2, 1761

My dear sister,

Let us not be greatly discouraged at the many tribulations, difficulties and disappointments which lie in the path which leads to glory. Our Lord has plainly told us, that “in this world, you will have many trials and sorrows.” Yet He has also made a suitable provision for every case we can meet with; and is Himself always near to those who call upon Him—as a sure refuge, an almighty strength, a never-failing, ever-present help in every time of trouble!

Jesus Himself was a man of sorrow, and acquainted with grief for our sakes. He drank the whole cup of unmixed wrath for us! Shall we then refuse to taste a sip of the cup of affliction at His appointment; especially when His wisdom and His love prepare it for us—and He proportions every circumstance to our strength; when He puts it into our hands, not in anger—but in tender mercy—to do us good, to bring us near to Himself; and when He sweetens every bitter sip with those comforts which none but He can give?

All former believers were once as we are now—they had their afflictions and their fears, their enemies and temptations; they were exercised with a wicked heart, and a wicked world! Now they are all before the eternal throne of God and the Lamb! While we are sighing—they are singing! While we are fighting—they are triumphing!

The time is short—and the world is passing away! All its troubles and all its vanities will soon be at an end! In a little while, “we shall see Him as He is!” Every veil will be taken away, every seeming frown will be removed from His face—and every tear wiped away from ours! We shall also be like Him! Even now, when we contemplate His glory as shining in the looking-glass of the Gospel—we feel ourselves, in some measure, transformed into His image! What a sudden, wonderful, and abiding change we shall then experience—when He shall shine directly, immediately, and eternally upon our souls, without one interposing cloud between!

“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:3


John MacDuff

“This is the resting place, let the weary rest; and this is the place of repose”—

“No one will be condemned who takes refuge in Him.” Psalm 34:22

“Judaea Capta,” are the words engraved on the well-known Roman coin, upon which impersonated captive Judah is sitting under the fronds of a desolate palm-tree.

Beneath the shadow of the Divine Heavenly Palm, the afflicted Christian can mingle his pensive sadness with the joyous strain, “He that dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust” (Ps. 91:1, 2).

“Trust God.” It is easy for us to do so in sunshine. It is easy to follow our Leader, as Israel did the pillar-cloud, when a glorious pathway was opened up for them through the midst of the Red Sea; or when at Elim they pitched under tapering palm and by gushing spring; or when heaven rained down bread on the hungry camp. But it is not so easy to follow when earthly palms wither and fountains fail, and the pillar ceases to guide, and all outward and visible supports are withdrawn. Then, however, is the time for faith to soar! When the world is loud with its atheist sneer—What of religious supports now? THEN is the time to manifest a simple childlike confidence; and, amid baffling dispensations and frowning providences to exclaim, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”

Child of Sickness! bound down for years on a lonely pillow—the night-lamp your companion—disease wasting your cheeks and furrowing your brow, weary days and nights appointed you; tell me, where is the God in whom you trust? He is here, is the reply. His presence takes loneliness from my chamber, and sadness from my countenance. His promises are a pillow for my aching head, they point me onwards to that better land where the inhabitant shall no more say, “I am sick!”

Child of Poverty! where is the God whom you trust? Can He visit this crude dwelling? Can His promises be hung on these broken rafters? Can the light of His Word illumine that cheerless hearth and sustain that bent figure, shivering over the smouldering ashes? Yes! He is here. The lips of truth that uttered the beatitude, “Blessed are the poor,” have not spoken in vain. Bound down by chill poverty, forsaken and forgotten in old age, no footstep of mercy heard on my threshold, no lip of man to drop the kindly word, no hand of support to replenish the empty cupboard; that God above has not deserted me. He has led me to seek and lay up my treasure in a home where poverty cannot enter, and where the beggar’s hovel is transformed into the kingly mansion!

Bereaved One! where is the God whom you trust? Where is the Arm of Omnipotence you used to lean upon? Has He forgotten to be gracious? Has He mocked your prayers by trampling in the dust your dearest and best, and left you to pine and agonize in the bitterness of your desolate heart and home? No, He is here! He has swept down my fond idols, but it was in order that He Himself might occupy the vacant place. I know Him too well to question the faithfulness of His word and the fidelity of His dealings. I have never known what a God He was, until this hour of bitter trial overtook me! There was a “need be” in every tear, every deathbed, every grave!

Dying One! the closing moments are at hand; the world is receding, the dreaded symptoms of the approaching end are gathering fast round your pillow, the soul is pluming its wings for the immortal flight! Before memory begins to fade and the mind becomes a waste; before the names of friends when mentioned will only be answered by a dull vacant look, and then the hush of awful silence; tell me, before the last lingering ray of consciousness and thought has vanished, where is the God whom you trust? He is here! I feel the everlasting arms underneath and round about me. Heart and flesh are failing. The mists of death are dimming my eyes to the things below, but they are opening on the magnificent vistas of eternity. He who has for long been the object of faith’s reliance, will soon be revealed in full vision and fruition. “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.”

“Still let me be with Thee, Father,

and ever be Thou with me:

When the clouds and tempests gather,

oh, then, let me trust in Thee:

Let me hide in Thy quiet shadow,

let me dwell in Thy secret shrine,

The home of the souls that love Thee,

the souls that Thou callest Thine!”

And if any who trace these pages feel themselves still strangers to such simple confiding trust; their inward disquieting thought, ‘How can we possibly live out these desert privations: that hot desert wind by day, these drenching dews by night? Where can we get food in these dreary leagues of dry sand, or find palm-shade and brook among these barren rocks and waterless channels?’ The message to all such is that addressed of old to the desponding Prophet, who had deserted the palm-tree of Israel and Israel’s God for the juniper tree of the desert, “Arise!” God will provide strength for the journey.

“Why are you crying out to Me?” said the Divine voice to Moses, when he crouched a skeptic at God’s feet, pointing to the barrier mountains behind and the raging sea in front—”Tell the Israelites to move on!”—’Up, do My bidding; and you shall see how I can make My way in the sea, and My path in the mighty waters.’ “Forward!” said the rebuked hero, clasping the rod of faith which had been lying forgotten at his side, and rising in the might of Jehovah. Forward they did go; and what was their confession and anthem on the opposite shore?—”Your right hand, O Lord, was majestic in power; Your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy.” “At Your rebuke, O God of Jacob, both horse and chariot lie still.” “O Lord God of hosts, who is a strong God like You? You rule over the surging sea: when its waves mount up, You still them!”

“If you could trust, poor soul,

In Him who rules the whole,

You would find peace and rest;

Wisdom and sight are well, but trust is best.”

“Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

Comments are closed.