“PRESENT EXPERIENCE OF DIVINE GRACE AND POWER”
A sermon preached by Mr. S. Delves (Crowborough, Sussex) at Zion Chapel, Leicester, 1966
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth, and with my song will I praise Him.”
Real good hearings of the word, if they are not all that frequent, are good. To have a good hearing is a wonderful thing; and it is said that, “A word spoken in due season, how good is it” Proverbs 15 : 23).
There are three things that make it good, and one thing is that it is in season. “In due season”; that is to say it is just the word that meets the case we are in; the season we are passing through. We might hear the same word at another time and approve it; feel it is a good word, but it would not be the same to us as when it is a word that is in season.
Then, secondly, “A word spoken in due season, how good is it because of the content of the word itself. It is the truth that is in it, the seasonable truth that the word expresses. For even a word might be spoken in due season but if there is not much in the word itself it does not help us. If however the word is rich, good, good in itself, and then if it is seasonable it is good to us.
Still something else is needed to make it good, and that is the effect that the word has upon our hearts. It is good in the effect of it and we know that this needs the power and application of the Holy Spirit. It is the special province of the Holy Spirit to clothe the good word with power to our hearts. Otherwise, even if the word is seasonable and good, it might sometimes seem to us like the singing of songs does to him that is of a heavy heart; but when the Holy Spirit makes it effective, conveys the word itself and we are conscious of it, then we have got everything. The word is seasonable, to us, it is good in itself and it has the helpful effect upon our spirit. I would be thankful if this might be such a word this evening.
There is no question about it being a good word that, Â‘The Lord is my strength and my Shield’; I could not have a better word. Everything will go well with me if that is true; and if I, or if you, should be feeling just now to be low in spirit, overburdened
about things and very conscious of our weakness, then if this word has the effect upon us that I have said, we shall begin in our heart to rejoice in it, to rejoice in the Lord and with our song we shall praise Him. When the Lord blesses you, you bless Him. When He speaks a good word into your heart then you rejoice, whatever may be your state of mind otherwise. You cannot but rejoice if the Lord speaks a good word like this and assures you that He is your strength and your shield.
It falls to me and to the Lord’s servants to set these things before you. I cannot speak the word with power into your hearts but may the Lord help me to expound this plain, simple and suitable word. It is the Psalmist’s testimony to what the Lord was to him as he had experienced and proved it for himself. He could say, as he did say in another place, and the apostle Paul refers to it, “And therefore have I spoken” (Psalm 116: 10 and 2 Corinthians 4: 13).
The first expression in the text, “The Lord is my strength”, implies that we are all weakness in ourselves, and the more we feel that weakness the more suitable and seasonable is this word. The Lord is the source of my strength. He is my strength in Himself, it is good that the Lord strengthens, but the Lord to be my strength seems to go somewhat deeper than that the Lord should strengthen. His very name, person, grace, truth, love and mercy is my strength. We especially need Him to be our strength with regard to the path that He calls us to walk in. “I will go in the strength of the Lord”. He is our strength with regard to whatever may be His will for us; He is our strength to do His will. It is not left to us to do the will of God by any strength of our ownÂ—He is our strength; He, whose will it is we should do, is our strength to do His will.
The Lord is our strength with regard to our conflicts in life; I mean our inner conflict with sin and temptation, with regard to foes without and foes within. The Lord is our strength to make us more than conquerors through His love. We have a record of the sufferings and the exploits of the saints of God in the 11th Chapter of Hebrews; they put to flight the armies of the aliens. They did wonderful things, and they suffered great things too. We might say, “Well, what strong people they were”, but there is a very revealing sentence put in the middle of that account, and that is this, “Out of weakness were made strong.” I think that is a wonderfully revealing sentence. They were as weak as anyone else; they were as weak as me, they were as weak as you. It was not that they had such strength that they could do such things and suffer such things. It was that they were made strong out of weakness in the sense that the Lord Himself was their strength.
The Lord is my strength and my shield. The same principle applies for this indicates that we need not only to be strengthened, but to be protected. A shield implies protection, and the Lord is not only my strength to strengthen me but my shield to protect me.
We must not carry this point so far as to make it suggest that the Lord’s people are thereby protected from trouble and the fiery darts of the enemy, and from the afflictions, trials and adversities that pertain to this life; that they are so far protected that these things do not affect or injure them. That is not so, we must put a more reasonable, right and scriptural meaning to this. We will take the metaphor first, for it is evidently a metaphorical expression.
The Lord is to me what a shield is. It is that which comes between, taking the blows, and shielding me from that which would otherwise be my destruction. There is something here, I feel, very instructive. I have read somewhere, that ancient shields were not made of one solid piece of metal but of layers of metal welded one upon the other. Two or three layers of metal were joined together to form one shield because a shield was much stronger if made that way, than if it was made of one solid piece of metal. It was also lighter in proportion to its strength. I suppose that if a blow landed on the shield it might crack one of the plates of the shield and the damage would go no further; the crack would not be so likely to go through the shield if there were several layers of metal. This has suggested much to my mind in regard to this scripture.
The Lord is my shield then in the sense that every divine perfection is like layer upon layer upon layer of the shield; every divine perfection shields me. One divine perfection alone is not the shield, but each divine perfection is joined together. First there is Divine Power. The Lord has omnipotent power for His people. He is an almighty God; He shields them with the power that is infinite. But almighty infinite power alone would not be such a shield to us as infinite power joined with compassion and favour. The Lord has said that He will compass him with favour as with a shield (Psalm 5: 12). However powerful He was, if He had no favour to me, no tender mercy, no compassion then His power would not be the shield to me that it is. His omniscience how complete it is! His wisdomÂ—how wise He is! Satan is very very crafty, but the wisdom of God shields us from His devices.
Join power with favour, and then join that with omniscience, and that with wisdom. It is like perfection on perfection, and all constituted in not so many different shields, but one! So says my text, ‘the Lord is my strength and my shield’.
If we are brought as far as this to feel that the Lord is our strength and our shield, then what follows? “My heart trusted in Him”. How these things all link up together. If the Lord is my strength and shield, what an encouragement, what an incentive to believe and to trust in Him.
‘My heart trusted in Him’. What is it to trust? It may seem this is simple enough and so, for that matter, it is, but there is a good deal that needs to be understood in this matter of “Trusting”. For one thing of course, there can be no trust where there is
no knowledge. “They that know thy name shall put their trust in thee” (Psalm 9: 10). What is the Lord’s name? Is it not just that of which I have been speaking? The name of One who is so gracious, powerful, compassionate and merciful; and, especially if we view it in this gospel light, the name of God is in the Person, merit and righteousness of Jesus Christ.
“Jesus in whom the Godhead’s rays,
Beam forth with mildest majesty?” (Charles Wesley)
It is a great thing to know the name of the Lord, to know that name in such a way that we are brought to put our trust in Him. There must be faith as well as knowledge. Speaking about knowledge there comes to one’s mind the case of the Athenians who worshipped “The unknown God” (Acts 17: 23). I am afraid there is a trusting of an unknown God as there is a worshipping an unknown God. But what is such trust or worship worth? It is worth nothing. We must know Him rightly to trust Him.
There can be no trusting without faith. It has been said, and in some degree I agree with it, that faith and trust mean the same thing, but not exactly. The word for faith in the Old Testament is usually trust. We do not read much about faith in the Old Testament, it is mainly trust. The New Testament word for trust is faith; they both mean the same in substance but with this distinction that trust is the effect of faith. It is a further step in the matter. To believe that He is trustworthy is the first thing, and then believing that, we feel able to trust Him. To trust Him believingly, for there can be no trust where there is no faith. So if there is knowledge and faith to trust, then there is a confidence felt. Where there is no confidence there is no trust. Do you really feel a confidence in your heart? Let us “Hold fast the confidence… firm unto the end” (Hebrews 3: 6).
Confidence in what? Confidence that you are a child of God? Not exactly. Confidence that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Confidence in His precious blood; that it was really shed, an atonement for sin, and for sin’s remission. Confidence that He has power to save to the uttermost. In other words it is confidence in Jesus Christ. It is not confidence in my confidence, it is confidence in Him. It is not confidence in my spiritual state as such, it is confidence in His grace and power to save. “We believe and are sure that thou art that Christ the Son of the living God” (John 6: 69); that is the confidence. These things put together constitute a real trust and it is expressed by the Apostle Paul, who said, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day” (2 Tim. 1: 12). There it is exactly, faith, knowledge and confidence. I know whom I have believed, I believe in whom I know, and I trust Him; I trust my soul in His hands. The Apostle Paul would have fully agreed with that verse.
On the word thy blood has sealed
Hangs my everlasting all (D. Turner).
Now, that is trust. It is an inward exercise of faith in the heart whereby it really does trust everything in the Lord’s hands. “My heart trusted in Him”. There is another thing in this expression that I would like to emphasise. “My heart trusted in Him”. It is not just a matter of mental agreement, no, my heart trusted in Him. This exercise of the heart may be understood to imply something really felt deep within. “My heart trusts Him, my heart clings to Him, my heart ventures all upon Him; my heart says “Thou art the Son of the living God”; my heart says, “To whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6: 68). What comes out of the heart has love in it: the heart being generally considered, in the Scripture, as the inward spring of tender affection. In the book of the Proverbs where the value and comfort of a good wife to a husband is expressed, you read, “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her” (Proverbs 31: 11). I had a wife like that, and my heart trusted in her implicitly.
Suppose a man has a wife like that, and he also has a business colleague whom he has every reason to feel is a man of upright principle, dependable in his business dealings, he would trust him would he not? But his heart would trust his wife in a different way than he would trust his business colleague. His heart would not trust his business colleague as his heart would trust his wife; “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her”. That is the meaning of the word, “My heart trusteth in Thee”. My affections, my feelings, my tender desires; they all trust in Thee. If it is in your heart to trust in Him in the way I have mentioned; He knows it, He accepts it, and He will take it upon Himself to honour it. Is it a question with anyone? Does the Lord know I trust Him like that? Does the Lord know that it is in my heart really to look to and cleave to Him like that? The answer is “Yes!” For “He knoweth them that trust in Him” (Nahum 1: 7). He knows who they are. He knows just how many there are in this chapel tonight whose hearts trust in Him. He knows where they are no matter where they may be, in this country, in the jungle, the tropics, the arctic; it makes no difference. He knows where they are and He knows exactly what their need is. He knows their temptations and shields them so that they are not overcome; He strengthens them. He prays for them and shields them as the Lord shielded Peter, although he fell. “I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22: 32). He was a shield to Peter then.
Now, the Lord knoweth them that trust in Him. Knowing that they trust in Him as He takes their trust upon Himself to honour it. He will never let them down, never. “My heart trusted in Him and I am helped”. That is sure to be so. He will help you as your heart trusts in Him. We might trust in another and be disappointed. It has often been said, “I trusted him and he let me down”. David trusted in Ahithophel and Ahithophel deceived him. David said in his haste, “All men are liars”, Whatever made him say that? He had trusted somebody who had let him
down. He said in his haste, “All men are liars, you cannot trust anybody”. It was an extreme reaction to disappointed trust.
“My heart trusted in Him and I am helped”. For what do we trust Him? “My heart trusted in Him to save me. I am just a poor helpless soul; to save myself would be like a man struggling in the mire. My struggles would only cause me to sink deeper; I cannot help Him to save me; I can only trust Him to, I can only fall upon His faithful word.”
On the word thy blood has sealed
Hangs my everlasting all.
I can only trust His faithfulness in the matter; I am lost if He does not save me: nothing else can, no one else can, but I trust Him to do it. He hath said, “Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God. and there is none else” (Isaiah 45 : 22), and my heart looks to Him and trusts Him to save me.
The Saviour does all the saving. That does not mean we are to be fatalistic. There is much exercise enjoined upon us in many ways, but, when it comes to saving, the Saviour does it all. If we try to help it would hinder. If a strong swimmer goes out to aid a drowning man, to rescue him from his danger, the struggles of the drowning man do not help the rescuer at all; he had better give himself up to him entirely and just do nothing. Let the strong swimmer get him out of the water; his struggles have not helped. Well, it is something like that in the matter of trusting the Saviour for salvation. We can only trust Him; we cannot make our case any better; it will not help Him to save us if we could. We must know we are lost, ruined, helpless and trust Him for all. “My heart trusteth in Thee to save me Lord. If thou dost not, perish I must; if thou dost, perish I never shall; my heart trusteth in thee”.
My heart trusteth in thy wisdom to guide me. “Lord, I am all foolishness in myself, I have no wisdom; I cannot forsee anything that is before me.” The Lord can see the end from the beginning, and it is restful to trust His wisdom to guide us. When the Psalmist Asaph went into the sanctuary of God, he was in a tumult of mind until the Lord brought him to trust Him in everything. When he did so trust, the tumult subsided in his spirit. The problem was not solved, but the tumult in his spirit about it was quietened; and the good man says, “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel” (Psalm 73: 24), and there was no reserve about it; no conditions; there was no suggestion as to what the way should be, it was entirely unreserved. “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel; Lord I can trust it. I can trust thy counsel and thy wisdom. Let the way be light; let it be dark; let it be rough; let it be smooth; it is all the same Lord; if thou wilt guide me with thy counsel, it will be right”.
We do need guidance, especially guidance in a way we do not know, and especially if the way may be different from what we thought it was going to be. Because it is different from that we thought it was going to be we may feel we have made a mistake; that we are not in the right way. Oh, how good it is to trust Him to guide us in the way. If there are two men going along a road and one knows the way and the other who does not, trusts him, that is good enough. They do not both need to know it. It is enough if one does and the other can trust him, and not keep objecting. “I do not think this is the right way, I did not expect this”. The Lord knows the way, my brethren. It is enough if He guides us. Our ignorance, shortsightedness, misunderstanding of things, our frustrated expectations, these do not matter really if the Lord is guiding us. He knows the way. My heart trusteth in His wisdom and counsel to guide me, “Lord, I do not dictate, why should I? I do not question, why should I question, help me to trust? “That is where our hearts find rest you know. “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37: 7). We find rest when our heart trusts and there is no one our heart can trust in, in these matters, but the Lord. The reason why our heart trusteth in Him is because He is our strength and our shield.
I have another consideration and that is, “My heart trusteth in thy fulness to supply my need”. I have such a very little of my own, like the poor woman who had only a drop of oil in the cruise and never had more than that, but she trusted the prophet when she made him a little cake first. But that drop of oil did not fail and that handful of meal in the barrel was still there. The Lord never gave that poor woman a stock in hand but just enough for another meal and no more. But she trusted the word of the prophet that they would not fail for behind that handful of meal and that word of the prophet was an almighty provider. It is so with us. The Lord does not give us much in hand, at least, not much spiritually. The Lord’s servants here will understand me when I say that in our ministry we hardly ever seem to have more than just enough for one more sermon, hardly that perhaps! What we shall say when we have preached that sermon we just do not know. How is it we have been able to go on all these years? Year after year! Our hearts, I feel, have trusted in Him and He has helped us. Behind a “handful of meal in a barrel” there is a fulness in Jesus Christ. Behind the “little oil in a cruse” there is the abundance, the infinite, never failing unction of God the Holy Ghost. My heart trusteth in Him to supply me.
“My every need He richly will supply;
Nor will His mercy ever let me die;
In Him there dwells a treasure all divine;
And matchless grace has made that treasure mine.”
So my heart trusted in Him.
My heart trusteth in Him that He will faithfully fulfill His word and promise, like Sarah whose faith failed at first and yet was restored and renewed. The Lord strengthening her faith, she judged Him faithful who had promised and He fulfilled His word.
My heart trusteth in Him with regard to the end. My heart trusteth in Him for when that hour comes. I know it must come, when “heart and flesh will fail and mortal life shall cease”. My heart trusteth in Him that He will receive me then, help me through, and underneath my fainting heart He will put His everlasting arms to sustain me. My heart trusteth in Him.
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him and I am helped.” I must say I appreciate the moderation with which the Psalmist expresses this, “I am helped”. For we cannot always speak of great things even when the Lord has helped us. When we have been through some very distressing and near fatal illness and are recovered, it is expected that we should have something wonderful to say; or if we have been brought through some other fiery trial, that we shall have had a wonderful experience in it. That is so sometimes but not always. We have not always got that to say which is expected of us, but we can truly say this, “I was helped”. To say less would be to dishonour Him. to say more might be to say something that was not really true. You cannot do that? But, brethren, this is not a little thing to say is it? “I am helped, supported, supplied, upheld, I am helped.” You might apply this to many things, “I am helped”. Your providential matters, your spiritual concerns, your labours in one way or another, in the ministry, in the Sabbath School, or with regard to your children. Those who have children and the mothers who have often the strain and care of their children upon their hands. I feel there are so many ways in which this can truly be said, “I trusted in Him and I am helped”. I looked to Him to help me, and He helped me. I felt the strain sometimes was great but He helped me to bear it. I felt sometimes very disappointed in matters but He helped me to bear the disappointment. “My heart trusted in Him and I am helped.”
If this word has a gracious effect upon our hearts, what will be the effect? There will be a sacred, holy joy felt there; not a light frivolous kind of joy but a real spiritual happiness within for there is real joy in these things brethren, and it is real joy. I would not preach a religion that has no joy in it. There is rejoicing in the Lord. It is not all one way neither is it all the other. I remember once visiting an old friend in hospital on his death bed and said to him, “My friend how is it with you?” He said, “Well, it is not all light, and it is not all dark. It is not all joy and it is not all sorrow.” I thought how well balanced he had put the matter, and is not this so? Who can say that it has been all joy with them, and no sorrow, no troubles, no tears? What child of God could honestly say that it has been all sorrow and no feeling of any joy
in the Lord, that it has never inspired them with a sense of His goodness and His grace so that they felt all within them could bless and praise His Holy Name? “My heart greatly rejoiceth. It rejoiceth me that I have such a God to look to; it rejoiceth me that I have such a Saviour to save me; that I have such a shield to protect me; it rejoices me to feel it. Therefore with my song will I praise Him.” For the end and purpose, I verily believe, of all the Lord’s kind, gracious, merciful wise dealings with us is that we shall praise Him for the past, praise Him for the present, and praise Him for what is to come. I hope that we may feel a little of that last expression as we close the services of the day, now therefore, “With my song will I praise Him”.