William Jay on Psalm 86:4

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William Jay, Morning Exercises:


"Rejoice the soul of thy servant."—Ps 86:4

The queen of Sheba not only admired Solomon, but hailed his attendants. "Happy are thy men, and happy are these thy servants that stand continually before thee." [1 Kings 10:8; 2 Chron 9:7] What then is it to be a servant of the King of kings and Lord of lords! [1 Tim 6:15]

A servant of God, however, is not one that only subserves his designs—this, by an overruling providence, all do, even the wicked themselves—but one who, from conviction and disposition, resigns himself to his will, and holds himself at his disposal; one who always asks, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" [Acts 9:6] always prays, "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer." [Ps 19:14]

And can such a man as this want spiritual joy? Yes; even David himself, that eminent servant of God, prays, "Rejoice the soul of thy servant." [Ps 86:4] We ask, If I am his, why am I thus? We think our course of experience singular; but while we complain, we are passing by the very landmarks which those who have gone before us have set up to tell us that we are right. Our state is one thing, our joy is another; the former remains always the same, the latter often varies.

Our safety does not depend upon our knowledge, but our comfort is much affected, by it, and sometimes a servant of God has but very imperfect views of those glorious truths which make us "free indeed." [John 8:36] Sometimes he may be depressed by his bodily frame and infirmities. Sometimes, too, he is under divine rebuke for sin, for this it is that separates between God and the soul. We should therefore search and try our ways. Is there not a cause? [1 Sam 17:29] If the consolations of God are small with us, is there no secret thing with us? Is there no worm at the root of our withering gourd? [Jon 4:7] No Achan in the camp, the troubler of Israel? [1 Chron 2:7] Joab besieges Abel, and threatens to destroy it. A woman cries out to him to know the cause. He answers, There is one Sheba, the son of Bichri, a traitor to the king. Cast him over the wall, and I will withdraw. And so it was. [2 Sam 20:21] And thus, if we would have peace with God, we must sacrifice every usurper, saying,

"The dearest idol I have known,
Whate'er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from thy throne,
And worship only thee."​

But a servant of God will value what he may want. He prizes it, not only because God has commanded and promised it, but because he knows, from experience, that the joy of the Lord is his strength. [Neh 8:10] He has seen how it once emboldened his profession and enlivened his zeal, and weaned his heart from the world, and revived him in the midst of trouble. [Ps 138:7] He has tasted its sweetness. He can never lose the relish of it, and this excites him to pray, "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation." [Ps 51:12]

For he is sure that God is alone the source and giver of it, and therefore to him he goes: "Rejoice the soul of thy servant." It is very desirable to see the morning after a dark night, and the spring after a cold, barren winter. But what makes the morning and the spring? Not all the lamps or fires in the world, but the sun. And the Lord God is the sun, as well as the shield of his people. All our light and life and bloom are from him, and in him is our fruit found. He is the God, not only of all grace, but of all comfort. [2 Cor 1:3]

It is he that comforts us in any of our common mercies, otherwise our sleep would not refresh us, nor our food nourish us, nor our friends cheer us. And what would the means of grace be, if he was not in them? God, says the apostle, comforted us by the coming of Titus [2 Cor 7:6]—not Titus, but God by Titus. Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as God gave to every man? Luther says it is as easy to make a world, as to ease a troubled conscience. But

"The troubled conscience knows thy voice:
Thy cheering words awake our joys;
Thy words allay the stormy wind,
And calm the surges of the mind."​
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