“Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary.”
The psalmist, Asaph, is in trouble. Verse 2 speaks of this trouble. The exact nature of this trouble cannot be determined. He probably, because of some sin, did not enjoy the blessed communion and fellowship of the alone blessed God.
The solution of Asaph’s difficulty is surely not expressed in the verses 7-9. The thought that the Lord will no longer be gracious and is changeable is maddening and gives no peace. However, confessing hi sin he will trust in the fact that God’s mercy is unchangeable, that the Lord will therefore forever be kind to him. Therefore we read in the verses 11-12: “I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember Thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all Thy work, and talk of Thy doings.”
Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary. Indeed, who is so great a God as our God? The Lord is God that does wondrous things. Wonderful is the Lord in all His works and ways. He is wonderful in all the works of His hands. The Lord God omnipotent reigneth. He is God alone. And He is a great God particularly in His work of salvation, revealed in Jesus Christ, His Son, our Lord.
Thy way, O God.
Generally speaking, Scripture speaks often of our way. This always implies three things. It refers, first of all, to the fact that we are children of time. Time is the inexplicable law for every living creature. Time marches on; it never pauses in its journey from the cradle to the grave. Time, never seen or noticed, is an awesome reality. As children of time we are constantly moving forward. Secondly, our way implies that we are moving forward in a spiritual, ethical direction. We are moral-rational creatures. We always act morally, ethically, either for God or against God. We are never neutral. Thirdly, our way also implies that we are constantly moving toward a definite goal. Inexorably we are on our way, to heaven or hell, to eternal bliss or eternal woe. There is never any neutrality, also as far as the goal is concerned. Our way, therefore, refers to our walk, our life’s conduct and manifestation, as including all our spiritual, ethical activity.
The way of the Lord refers, generally, to the Lord’s Self-manifestation, His rule and government in all of history, in which the Lord does all things for His Name’s sake, to reveal Himself. Specifically, and in this text and psalm, the way of the Lord is His redemptive way, His way of salvation, His Self-manifestation in which He reveals Himself as the mighty Savior and Deliverer of His people.
God’s way, we read, is in the sanctuary. There are two possible interpretations of the expression “in the sanctuary.” The first interpretation would explain the expression as referring to the temple, the holy place. The idea is that it is only in the temple where the Lord has revealed Himself that we can understand the way of the Lord. It is only in His light, only when we go to the Lord and inquire of Him concerning His guidance, that the way of the Lord will become clear to us. This reminds us of Psalm 73:17. There the psalmist is the same, Asaph. This, we understand, is true. Another interpretation would read “‘holiness” here in the place of “sanctuary.” Holiness is the literal meaning of the original word in this text. Sometimes, however, the word refers in Scripture to that which is holy, as, for example, the holy place of the sanctuary. This also explains the translation: in the sanctuary. Literally, however, we may read: Thy way, O God, is in holiness.
We prefer the reading: Thy way, O God, is in holiness. Of course, there is no essential difference between the two translations. The sanctuary was a holy place, devoted exclusively to the service of the Lord. As such, however, it must surely be understood in this scripture. Holiness is that virtue of the living God whereby He is supremely consecrated unto Himself, seeks Himself, and does all things for His own Name’s sake. The holiness of God implies that He alone is the God of infinite goodness and perfection and that He is therefore eternally consecrated unto Himself, and as such reveals Himself. And this implies that, as the holy God, He alone does wondrous things, things that arouse our wonder and amazement, hating the wicked and being a terrible God unto them, but also loving His people for His Name’s sake and delivering them by His own almighty power and grace, unto His praise and glory, evoking praise and adoration from them whom He has loved, sovereignly, in Christ Jesus.
This is surely in harmony with this psalm. The context directs us to this thought. We read in verse 13b: Who is so great a God as our God? And then the psalmist proceeds to speak of His powers, His fearful deliverance of His people, in the verses that follow. This also explains why we read in this text: Thy way, O God, is in holiness. God is the terrible God, the fearful God, the God worthy of all adoration and service. God and His holiness are inseparably connected and related.
Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary, or, in holiness.
Obviously, the psalmist refers to Israel’s deliverance out of the Egyptian house of bondage. What an awesome, fearful display this was of the alone living and holy God! He had led His own, sovereignly, into that terrible house of bondage. Why should the Lord lead Jacob and his family into Egypt when they were already in the land of Canaan and the Lord intended to give unto them and their seed that land of the promise? It is obvious that the Lord had sovereignly led them into the land of Egypt because He would reveal His mighty power unto Pharaoh and lead His own out of that house of bondage with a mighty arm. The Lord had placed His own into a position out of which they would be unable to deliver themselves. The Egyptian house of bondage was a symbol, a type of the spiritual bondage of sin, and Israel’s deliverance, because of the blood upon the doorposts. It was a divinely willed symbol of the spiritual deliverance out of the bondage of sin and evil. And the Lord had delivered them with a mighty arm, had revealed to Egypt and Israel alike that He is God alone, Who loves and seeks Himself. He had therefore destroyed the wicked oppressor and had saved, for His Name’s sake, the people whom He had sovereignly loved and chosen from before the foundations of the world. That the Lord had delivered Israel was not because Israel was a better people than the Egyptians. They were a rebellious people and they were saved only because of the blood. How the scriptures emphasize this truth. This we read inDeuteronomy 7:7, 8: “The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the Lord loved you, and because He would keep the oath which He had sworn unto your fathers.” And, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated,” before either had done any good or evil (Rom. 9:11-13). The Lord is absolutely sovereign.
Today, however, we stand before the fulfillment of all these types and shadows. Calvary is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament types and shadows and symbols. What a fearful and awesome display we have at the cross of Calvary of the alone living and holy God! Indeed, as was true in the old dispensation, the Lord had led His own into the fearful house of the bondage of sin and guilt and death. Sin with its subsequent night of sin and corruption and death was surely no accident. The Lord is God alone. Known unto Him are all His works from before the foundations of the world. Christ was crucified and slain according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23). The first Adam sinned because he must prepare the way for the second Adam, the Lord out of heaven. Today, in the new dispensation, we stand before the cross of Calvary. Calvary is indeed the fulfillment, the antitype of Israel’s deliverance out of Egypt. Indeed, how true it is of the cross: Thy way, O God, was in holiness, a fearful display of God’s Self-devotion. A misery of sin and guilt, out of which we could never deliver ourselves, was our lot. But God revealed Himself in all the terribleness of His holiness and justice, His mercy and compassion. Indeed, at the cross righteousness and peace have kissed each other. God, because He is holy and hates sin, would never permit it to go unpunished, but He sent His own Son. He would rather taste death itself, the fearful death of His eternal good pleasure, than wink at sin and let it go unpunished. God, Who loved His people eternally for His own Name’s sake, suffered the incomprehensible horrors of hell, the horrors of His own fearful indignation, in Jesus Christ, our Lord. God alone saved us, all by Himself, because He is eternally devoted unto Himself, because He demands His own glory, and saves in such a way that He alone will receive all the glory, now and forever. Indeed, the Lord will never give His glory to another, will never share it with another. His way is in the sanctuary, in holiness, a way in which He is completely devoted and consecrated unto Himself. To God alone must be all the glory. He leads us into a hopeless misery in order that He may save us by His right arm and do it all alone. This is the truth which we as Protestant Reformed Churches have received as a blessed heritage. This is the truth which has been entrusted to our care. May we ever preserve this glorious heritage, and seal it, if need be, with our very lives. God alone is worthy of all adoration and praise.
How comforting this is!
If we are in trouble (and we often are), in the trouble of sin and of affliction because of our affliction in the midst of the world, we surely cannot console ourselves with what we read in the verses 7-9. Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Will the Lord cast off forever, will He be favorable no more? Is His mercy clean gone for ever? Doth His promise fail forevermore? This would be maddening! Besides, how wrong it is of us to accuse the unchangeably faithful God of forgetting His own, of changeableness! Is it not terrible to lay these things to God’s charge? Never may or should we blame the Lord.
Let us, however, consider His works. Let us, in faith, ever look upon the cross of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Surely, He Who hath loved us will always continue to love us. He Who hath not spared His own Son will certainly give us all things. Indeed, to Him alone be all the praise and the glory now and forever.
Thy way, O God, is in holiness.
Also Thy way of salvation.
The Lord will save us, even unto the very end.