The recent facts of the Scottish Church Census are stark. Some call it a crisis. It observes steep decline in attendance. Mainly ageing congregations are mostly led by ageing ministers. Some may query the definition of church and make qualifications and caveats about statistics. Yet it still makes sombre reading and seems to measure a deluge of secularisation making further tidal advances. How far will it go? What will things look like in 10 years time? When we quantify things in spiritual rather than numerical decline there may be even greater cause for concern. But we need to take God’s perspective rather than merely heed the statistician.
It is just such a perspective that we get in Psalm 93. As David Dickson observes, it is a Psalm for the comfort of God’s people against the multitude and power of their enemies. Their enemies often seem likely to overflow, devour and drown the Church. Yet the Church has its defence, comfort and victory in the Lord of glory. We are to draw comfort from praising God. He is the great governor of the world, unchangeable and eternal constantly guiding the world by His power and wisdom (verses 1-2).
The opposition of the of the enemies of the Church is compared to the growing flood or the raging sea (verse 3). Yet the Psalmist declares the glory and might of God in opposition to their power (verses 4-5). These truths are applied, showing how we ought to respond if we desire such comfort in believing (verse 5).
The Church’s Fears
The Church fears that she is likely to be overflowed as with a deluge by a multitude of powerful enemies. She bemoans these to God in verse 3.
1. They are Real Fears
It is no surprise to see the world rising up tumultuously to overthrow the Church like a deluge coming on them to drown and devour everything. It is no surprise to hear enemies threatening destruction to the Church like the noise of flood waters coming down the mountains after rain, from which there is no escape. The floods have lifted up their voice and their waves.
2. The Best Way to Deal with Such Fears
The best way to counter threatenings and fears is with God. We must lay them before the Lord that He may answer them. This is what the Psalmist does here, saying “the floods have lifted up, O Lord”.
God is Mightier than All that the Church Fears
The Psalmist contrasts the power of God with the boasting, malice and power of the enemies. God’s power is far above that of the Church’s enemies. He is more mighty in defending the Church than the enemy is in opposing it.
1. Only Heavenly Help and Comfort will Calm Our Fears
Only heavenly help and comfort from above is able to calm our fears here below in times of persecution and fear of enemies. “The Lord on high” (verse 4) is contrasted with the roaring of the floods and waters dashing against the Church.
2. God is More Powerful than the Church’s Enemies
We can neither glorify God nor comfort ourselves against the power of the Church’s enemies unless we exalt the Lord’s power above them all: “The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters”.
3. God is Above All that We Fear
The Lord is above everything that terrifies us. He is able to restrain them as He pleases and by His power terrify those that terrify His Church: “The Lord is mightier than the noise of many waters” and “the mighty waves of the sea”.
The Psalmist also applies these truths concerning the Lord’s power and good will to defend His Church. Since the Word of the Lord is sure and true in itself, we should acknowledge it to be sure. We should set our seal to it, as the Psalmist does here in saying that God’s “testimonies are very sure”. Another application is that if we wish to have the benefit of the protection promised here we must strive to be holy.
1. Scripture Testifies to Itself
Whatever is said in Scripture needs no external proof. It is God’s declaration and whatever it declares is true. His promises are therefore referred to here as His testimonies.
2. Scripture Will Never Deceive Us
No one can ever be deceived in believing the truth of the Scriptures or the Lord’s testimony within it. When we have God’s Word our minds can rest at peace, because His “testimonies are very sure”.
3. The Lord’s Presence is the Church’s Greatest Blessing
The strength and happiness of the Lord’s people is that they are the Lord’s habitation and place of residence. God’s Church and people are dedicated and consecrated to Him, His holy house. The temple was only a type and shadow of this.
4. God will be Sanctified by All that Draw Near Him
Any who desired to enjoy the preservation and privileges promised to the Church must strive after holiness. This is also the duty of the members of the Church, holiness becomes this House.
5. These Duties and Blessings Belong to the Church in All Ages
The dignity, duty and privileges of God’s people are perpetual. Consecration, holy affections and conduct and and the removal of sin and misery in particular do not belong unto any time or age. Rather, they are for all that strive to be approved of God, protected and made blessed by God in all times and ages, in all places and company, all the days of their life. Holiness is becoming to God’s House for ever.