Heavenly Ways in Earthly Surroundings.
A Few Thoughts on Psalm XVI.
THE title of this Psalm has been variously understood. The margin puts it, "A golden Psalm of David," others take "michtam" to mean "a golden secret," or "a secret treasure." Doubtless a combination of all these different renderings will give us the whole meaning.
It is a "golden psalm" because its truths are like the "pure gold" of Heaven, which is "like unto clear glass" (Rev. xxi. 18), unmixed and transparent, reflecting glory on God, unlike the yellow gold of earth, which might become dim, and, when found, is mixed with dross and dirt.
It is "a golden secret," for the secret of "the life which is life indeed," the life of Heaven and happiness in a world of sin and sorrow, is divulged here. The question, "Is life worth living?" is answered therein.
It is "a secret treasure," because but a little digging will reveal a hidden wealth of truth which will greatly enrich the one who by faith makes it his own, and enters into the practical enjoyment thereof. The lovers of heavenly wisdom inherit substance and their treasuries are filled with durable riches (Prov. viii. 17-21).
The eleven steps of this psalm, beginning with the cry of dependence and ending with the joy of the throne, have been trodden before. The blessed Son of God, when in humanity's lowly guise on earth, has climbed this heavenly ladder. This we know from Acts ii. 25-28, xiii. 35; Heb. ii. 13. He has perfectly exemplified the life of faith. He never swerved one hair's-breadth therefrom, no matter what the provocation. The will of God was His meat and His drink, and, however testing to faith, ever sweet to His taste. It is ours to press on in the same narrow path, and to know not the mere "imitation," but the daily reproduction of the life of Christ through the Spirit, by whom He can constitute our very hearts His dwelling-place (2 Cor. iv. 10, 11; Eph. iii. 16, 17).
The first verse gives us THE SECRET OF THE LIFE OF TRUST. The cry of that life is: "I hide in Him." "Preserve me, O God, for in Thee do I put my trust." Where Adam peculiarly made shipwreck, Christ peculiarly triumphed. Adam fell in a garden, Christ conquered in a wilderness, after forty days abstinence, so that the intelligences of Heaven, withstanding with the flaming sword, the defeated first man, could minister to the victorious second man, the Lord from Heaven (Mark i. 13). His resort was God. Let us also make Him our hiding-place, as the timid dove seeks the cleft of the rock as a shelter from the cruel birds of prey. Thus hidden, we are temptation proof. We are encased in "the armour of light."
Verse 2.—THE SURRENDERED LIFE. "O my soul, thou hast said unto Jehovah, Thou art my Adonay," my master, my owner, possessor, absolute proprietor. The confession of the verse is: "I belong to Him." As regards our blessed Lord, every fibre of His being was yielded up to God, every vein in His body throbbed with submission and devotedness to Him. O may we also fall as vassals before Him, putting His feet upon our necks, anticipating His coming "crowning day" by giving Him "the dominion" even now (Rev. i. 5, 6). In a deeper sense, let us cry with the dying emperor: "O Galilean, Thou hast conquered!”
Verses 3 and 4.—THE SEPARATED LIFE, which declares plainly: "I side with Him." Our Lord was the true Nazarene. He could join neither Pharisees, Sadducees, or Herodians. He walked apart from man's religious parties, who idolatrously worshipped religion, and bowed at the shrine of human tradition, because it gave them a respectable standing among men, but turned their back on the living and true God, making His Word of none effect. We too are exhorted to go forth unto Him without the camp and bear the stigma attached to His still outcast name. His Cross delivers us "out of this present evil age, according to the will of God and our Father" (Gal. i. 4., R.V.), and brings us into a new kind of world altogether, where "Christ is ALL, and in all" (Col. iii. 11).
Verses 5 and 6.—THE CHRISTIAN'S SECRET OF A HAPPY LIFE," all in two short sentences. The speaker in this verse practically says: "I am satisfied with Him." Levi's portion was the God of Israel; thus, we too are to find our possession in Himself. He fills the cup. Homeless on earth, He gives us to drink of joys that take not hence their rise. The heart has found its centre, the soul her home. The lines have indeed fallen in pleasant places.
Verse 7.—THE INSTRUCTED LIFE. The ear is here opened to discipline. The Lord gives His wise counsel in times of perplexity. In the stillness of "the night seasons," in the hour of bereavement, the dark and cloudy day of blighted hopes and disappointed plans, weighty lessons are imparted and golden secrets are divulged, while errors learned in earthly schools are untaught by that Teacher, who being meek and lowly in heart, says: "Learn of Me." This verse gives us the soul's response: "I listen to Him."
Verse 8.—THE SECRET OF A STEADFAST LIFE. The Lord is ALWAYS before the face of the psalmist. He is at his right hand ready to succour and defend. He fills the soul's entire vision. No wonder he can add: "I SHALL NOT BE MOVED." He practically says: "I am engaged with Him." The eye is fastened upon Him. He goes on in peace, for who can do him harm?
"The sea of my life all around me may roar;
When I look unto Jesus, I hear it no more."
Verses 9-11.—The fitting close to what goes before. THE LIFE BEYOND THE VEIL. The lessons have been learned; the changing scenes of the wilderness have served to bring out the manifold grace of God. Life's chapter draws near to its "finis." Its story is about told, and now the Father's peaceful home bursts into view. The "cup" of the lone pilgrim is exchanged for the banquet, the manna of the wilderness for the flowing milk and honey of the goodly promised land.
"The streams on earth I've tasted,
More deep I'll drink above."
“I am going to Him." Sweet was the foretaste, sweeter yet the fulness. The Nazarite may drink wine now, and it will not be the worldling's guilty joy in independence of God; the elder brother's kid to make merry with his friends. The wine of the Father's kingdom cheereth God as well as man.
And our Jordan has no "stormy banks" as some have dreamed. We triumph in death in the victory of the living Christ of God. What aileth thee, O Jordan, that thou art driven back (Ps. cxiv. 5)? Where is thy victory, boasting grave? And where thy dreaded sting, cruel death?
It will take us all our time to learn the first six golden secrets thoroughly. The desert becomes our school. How much like sieves are our minds. How impatient under repeated lessons. But we shall have an eternal "holiday" by-and-bye, an unending "vacation" with Christ in glory, when "school-term" is over. Full and lasting will be our enjoyment, when "satisfied" and filled to our vessel's fullest capacity, we awake to shine in His likeness and enter into the life beyond the veil. Then the heavenly life, now feebly manifested in earthly surroundings and struggling against limitations and difficulties, will expand and develop in its own happy and holy native clime.
“The Witness” 1893