Neither this Psalm nor any other of the Psalms rises to the full height of Christianity. Yet there are rich experiences found in the Psalms, and spiritual affections find utterance, but more, perhaps, in the way of desire than of true satisfaction. The reason, of course, is this: Christ had not come, redemption was not accomplished, and the Holy Ghost had not been given.
Notice, by the way, the heading of the Psalm. It really is a sort of introduction. “To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm for the sons of Korah.” Now the very mention of Korah awakens all kinds of memories. His was an awful history (Jude 11). But grace overrules all that, and the sons of Korah are brought into a place of wonderful blessing. This Psalm, then, is for them and for us.
First, the Psalmist unfolds a state of heart that is very blessed, but not the highest that can be reached. There is great appreciation of the Lord’s presence, although it is not a thing possessed. The desire to have Christ is good, but to possess Him is infinitely better. “How amiable are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts” (v. 1). The soul describes in these words the unspeakable blessedness of the spot where the Lord is, but it is a matter of desire, and not of enjoyment.
“My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord.” But, properly speaking, this is not Christian experience, though it is the experience of many Christians. If it is yours, I do not say you are not a Christian, but I do say there is something you have not got. Now God has blessed us “with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” There is nothing His counsel could devise, His word furnish, or His hand pass over to us, that is not made ours in Christ now. I do not deny there are a great many unsatisfied hearts today. Yours may be one of them. But if you get out of the state of desire into that of enjoyment, it will be an immense change. And that is what the Spirit of God labours for. He seeks to bring the soul into conscious touch with Christ and into the enjoyment of His presence and love.
“My heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God” (v. 2). Beautiful is this desire, but it is not satisfying. God is not content with that merely. He has revealed Himself fully, so that there might be the most profound enjoyment of His love. “The love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26). Many a heart is only in the condition of, what I may call, unsatisfied desire. It is a beautiful thing to have desires that only Christ can satisfy, but the real and deep enjoyment of Himself, ah! that is another matter.
“Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even Thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King, and my God” (v. 3).
Has it ever occurred to you why the Psalmist alludes to those two birds? I do not doubt there is a beautiful hidden truth in it. If there are any birds under the sun that picture the condition of a heart not yet in the enjoyment of divine love, they are the swallow and the sparrow. The sparrow is never satisfied, and the swallow is never at rest. All the livelong day the sparrow will eat. It is never full. And as for a swallow, who ever knew it to be restful? This is a wonderful figure of the deep dissatisfaction and restlessness of the human heart. If you have been a worldling like the woman in John 4, you have found out that the world does not satisfy, and never can. The Lord said truly, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again; but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst for ever; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into ever-lasting life.” What is that? It is life known in the power of the Holy Ghost, the indwelling Spirit, who connects the heart with a glorified Christ, so that it is always bubbling up with joy and praise. It is really what everlasting life is, fellowship with the Father and with the Son, and the soul brought into it now. You have a fountain, even the Holy Spirit in you, ever telling you of Christ, and ever making Christ precious to your heart. But more.
“Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house: they will be still praising Thee. Selah” (v. 4). Yes, God loves that it should be so. Praise gratifies Him. “I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving.” I have been asking hundreds of young people the last few years how they can best please the Lord. I could not tell you all the different answers:—“Work for Him,” “Serve Him,” “Love Him,” and a hundred different things—things that are connected with a little bit of energy in themselves. Look what it says here: “I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving. This also shall please the Lord better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs” (Ps. 69:30-31). What is the meaning of the bullock? You may say, “Sacrifice.” There is more than that. It is a figure of patience, endurance, constancy, and service. Now remember, you will not get a bit of reward from Christ, by and by, for laziness. Let us not deceive ourselves that way. But there is something better than service. What is it? Ah! He says, “I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving.” That will please Him better than all the service that could be rendered to Him. He does not make light of service. He says, “Occupy till I come.” And I shall not get your reward, and you will not get mine. The reward is to each one as the work shall be. But there is, however, something sweeter than that. It is the song. Thanksgiving.
“Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house: they will he still praising Thee.” The heart is in the deep and blessed enjoyment of God, and it flows out. Worship is a wonderful thing. It is the overflow of a full cup. It is the heart overwhelmed with the greatness of God, and the goodness and love of God. Thanksgiving is for that which is received. Worship is deeper. It is the enjoyment of Himself. It is the soul absorbed and controlled by the blessedness of His presence, and nearness and intimacy. The soul is there in delight. May the Lord give us to know more of this.
Look now at the second place of blessing. “Blessed is the man whose strength is in Thee; in whose heart are the ways of them” (v. 5). “Ah!” you say, “mine is a difficult life.” So is mine. “But mine is a very peculiar life, and so you would say, if you only knew the difficulties of my pathway.” Very likely, but do notice what the Psalm says: “Blessed is the man whose strength is in Thee.” You and I have no strength. But remember what Paul said: “When I am weak, then am I strong.” He said more: “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities.” Infirmities are not sins. They may be weakness of body, sickness, or circumstances—things connected with your human life. He says, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” For the Lord says, “My grace is sufficient for thee” (2 Cor. 12:9-10). And do not forget, dear young fellow-Christian, that the secret of real strength is to know that you have none. Own your weakness and cling to the Lord. And what will be the result? “My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
“Blessed is the man whose strength is in Thee; in whose heart are the ways of them.” You see the Psalmist now speaks of walking through the valley of tears, where your path is and mine; but he walks through it in the enjoyment of God, and in the strength and sweetness of all that is heavenly. “In whose heart are the ways of them.” Ways of God, ways of Christ, the moral traits of the Lord Jesus. That is what “the ways” are.
“Who passing through the valley of Baca” (a valley of weeping). And is not this passing world a valley of weeping? Widows and orphans, and broken hearts are met at every turn.
But the valley of Baca becomes a well, and the rain also fills the pools.” It overflows. That is, you are able, like Elijah, in the midst of dearth to bring in rain, refreshment. It is somewhat in figure similar to John 7, “He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (v. 38). Instead of dearth and dryness, you carry blessing with you, wherever you go. What a grand thing to be thus in touch with God.
But more. “They go from strength to strength,” from company to company, if you will. Passing on, preserved by the Lord, and sustained by the Lord. “Every one of them in Zion appeareth before God” (v. 7). What had they touched? Zion. What is that? It is the city and rule of grace. It is the spot where all the mercies of David are known.
“O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah” (v. 8). The soul that is in the enjoyment of the Lord is always prayerful. You will find a person that is in the happy intimacy and love of Christ is used of God for blessing to others. Prayer and dependence upon God mark that man, and he becomes a blessing in the scene of sorrow.
But now he goes on and says, “Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of Thine anointed” (v. 9). The eye is turned to Christ, and the heart reverts to the house of the Lord. And now he says, “I would choose rather to sit at the threshold in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness” (v. 10). You have got to go through a wicked world. But there is holy separation, sanctification—the practical sanctification of the soul. I must be near the Lord to be kept from being ruined by the scene through which I have got to pass. This state is very beautiful, it is divine, and spiritual, and heavenly. It is what the Spirit of God labours to work in all our souls.
And then he adds, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield.” Aye, it is a great thing, a sun and shield. A sun to give light and warmth. Who is the sun? Christ. “Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof” (Ps. 19:5-6). The point is this: the sun gives light and warmth. Bask in it. Keep in the warmth and light of the love of Christ. “The Lord God is a sun and shield.” And in the day of the east wind a shield is a great thing. When everything is against you, or when the darts of the enemy come, a shield is of use then. “The Lord will give grace and glory.” These are two fine bits in a Christian’s pathway. The first bit is grace, and the second bit is glory. There is nothing in between. It is grace all along the road. Nothing but grace. You and I may have grumbled. He has dealt with us in grace. We have not always dealt in grace with each other. It is an immense thing for the heart to be established in grace. I do not mean lightness or levity; but the sense of the immeasurable grace of God. “My son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:1). What is grace? It is the sense of the unconditional favour of God. It is love that has put on a new colour in the presence of evil. “Oh,” you say, “I am so bad.” Do you expect to be any better? Never. I know some have been very disappointed, thinking they should get a little better. And many a soul gets dejected. What met you and me in the beginning? Grace. What meets us all along the line? Grace. Well may the Apostle say, But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you” (1 Pet. 5:10). He is the God of grace.
“The Lord will give grace and glory.” Now you know we need not wait for the glory; in a certain sense we have it now. We know a glorified Man. The glory of God shines upon His face. Where is the glory of God now? In His face. What has God given us? The glory; and our hearts are brought to the spot, into the enjoyment of it, even now. “Ah!” you say, “I do long for the glory.” Tell me, are you enjoying the grace? Is the grace strengthening you, filling your soul with the fatness of God’s house?
But now, in the meantime, what is ours? “No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly” (v. 11). One or two things, which I would have liked, have been held from me in my life. This Psalm is a wonderful interpreter—it shows why I never got them. It would not have been good for me. If I had got what I wanted very much, it would have been a very bad thing for me. Many a thing would have brought me trouble. God has kept it out of my road. People sometimes get all that they set their foolish hearts upon. “He gave them the desire of their heart; but sent leanness into their soul.” Some men set their hearts on money. And what do you see? Empty hearts and miserable faces. What is the end of it? They have often more bother than the folk that have none. They are afraid they will lose it. “No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.” Lots of bad things He keeps back, but not one good thing. He has kept back what would harm us. You and I may have thought it good. But He says, “I love you too much to allow you to have that.” And if you look back perhaps thirty or forty years, you can say, “How wise, how good, how gracious He is!”
And now the last verse; “O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in Thee” (v. 12). That is not very high. No. But it is a very happy thing. Some of the high people get an awful tumble. The higher you are on the ladder, the more bones you will break if you fall. The Lord loves reality. “O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in Thee.”
Well, there are three characters of blessing. First of all, the blessing of dwelling in His house inside; then there is the blessing connected with having Him as your strength outside; and then, last of all, there comes this continuous blessing in your pathway here when in the ups and downs of human life. “Blessed is the man that trusteth in Thee.”
The Lord give us to know more and more of these three blessings for His name’s sake.
Simple Testimony 1911