By J.R. Miller
Psalm 57:7, 8
"My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. Awake, my glory! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn!"
The fifty-seventh Psalm is attributed to David. The time to which it is set down in the title is, "when he fled from Saul in the cave." The writer cries to God for refuge. His soul is among lions. His enemies have prepared a net for his steps. Then he cries as if to arouse himself to joy. "Awake, my glory! Awake, harp and lyre!" The verses of the Psalm which follow give us the music which flows forth from the awakened strings. "I will praise you, O Lord, among the people. . . . For your mercy is great unto the heavens."
Many of us need at times to make this same call upon ourselves to awake. The harps are hanging silent on the walls. The figure of instruments of music sleeping is very suggestive. They are capable of giving forth rich melodies--but not a note is heard from them. There are two thoughts suggested by this prayer. One is that life is meant to be glad, joyous. It is pictured as a harp. The other is, the splendor of life, "Awake, my glory!"
It is to a life of joy and song we are called to awake. Life is a harp. There is a legend of an instrument that hung on a castle wall. Its strings were broken. It was covered with dust. No one understood it, and no fingers could bring music from it. One day a strange visitor appeared at the castle. He saw this silent harp, took it into his hands, reverently brushed away the dust, tenderly reset the broken strings, and then played upon it, and the glad music filled all the castle. This is a parable of every life. Life is a harp, made to give out music--but broken and silent until Christ comes. Then the song awakes. We are called to awake to joy and joy-giving.
Christ's life was a perpetual song. He gave out only cheer. He even started to His cross singing a hymn. When He arose He started songs with His first words, "All hail!" "Peace be unto you." What music did you start yesterday, as you went about? What song is in your heart singing today? "Awake, harp and lyre!"
But there is something else. "Awake, my glory!" Glory is a great word. It has many synonyms and definitions. It means brightness, splendor, luster, honor, greatness, excellence. Every human life has glory in itself. Did you ever try to answer the question, "What is man?" It would take a whole library of books to describe the several parts of a life. Merely to tell of the mechanism of a human hand, to give a list of the marvelous things the hand has done, would fill a volume. Or the eye, with its wonderful structure; the ear, with its delicate functions; the brain, with its amazing processes; the heart, the lungs--each of the organs in a bodily organism is so wonderful, that a whole lifetime might be devoted to the study of anatomy alone--and the subject would not be exhausted!
Think, too, of the intellectual part, with all that the mind of man has achieved in literature, in invention, in science, in art. Think of the moral part, man's immortal nature, that in man which makes him like God, capable of holding communion with God, of belonging to the family of God. When we begin to think even most superficially of what man is, we see an almost infinite meaning in the word "glory" as defining life. "Awake, my glory!"
No one, even in the highest flights of his imagination, ever has begun to dream of the full content of his own life, what it is at present; then what it may become under the influence of divine grace and love. Even now, man redeemed is but "a little lower than God." Then, "it is not yet made manifest what we shall be." The full glory is hidden, unrevealed, as a marvelous rose is hidden in a little bud in springtime. All that we know about our future--is that we shall be like Christ. We are awed even by such a dim hint of what we shall be--when the work in us is completed.
The call to awake implies that the glory which is in us--is asleep. It is a call to all that is in us--of beauty, of power, of strength, of good, of love--to be quickened to reach its best. We are not aware of the grandeur of our own lives. We do not think of ourselves as infolding splendor, as having in us the beauty of immortal life. We travel over seas to look at scenes of grandeur, to wander through are galleries, to study the noble achievements of architecture; while we have in ourselves greater grandeur, rarer beauty, sublimer art--than any land under heaven has to show us. Let us pray to be made conscious of our own glory. "Awake, my glory!"
We are to call out these splendors. The harp is standing silent--when it might be pouring out entrancing music. The hand is folded and idle--when it might be doing beautiful things: painting a picture, that would add to the sum of the world's beauty; doing a deed of kindness, that would give gladness to a gentle heart; visiting a sick or suffering one and winning the commendation, "You did it unto Me!" The power of sympathy is sleeping in your heart--when it might be awakened and be adding strength to human weakness on some of life's battlefields, making struggling ones braver, inspiring them to victory.
Suppose, now, that all the capacity for helping others, lying unawakened in each one's heart and hand, were brought out for just one week and made to do their best--what a vast ministry of kindness would be performed! Suppose that all of each one's capacity, for praising God were called out, that every silent harp and every sleeping psaltery should be waked up and should begin to pour out praise--what a chorus of song would break upon the air! One of the Psalms begins with the call, "Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name!" That is what this call, "Awake, my glory! Awake, harp and lyre!" means. If we truly wish our glory to be awakened, we must seek to have the best in us called out to its fullest capacity of service.
This story comes from Japan and tells how only the Bible can prove itself true. A man had obtained a Bible and became much interested in it. After reading it, he said, "This is a fine thing in theory--but I wonder how it would work in practice." On the train on which he was traveling was a lady, who, he was told, was a Christian. He watched her attentively to see how she would act, how her conduct would illustrate the Book in which she believed. He said, "If I can see anything in her conduct like this Book, I will believe it." Before the day was over he had seen in her so many little acts of unselfishness and kindness, so many examples of patience and thoughtfulness, so much consideration for the comfort of her fellow passengers, that he was deeply impressed and resolved to make the Bible the guide and inspirer of his whole life. Thus it is that the glory of our life should be awakened.
In one of Paul's letters to Timothy he gave this young man an earnest charge. Timothy was not living at his best. Paul bade him to stir up the gift of God that was in him. Timothy had abilities--but he was not using them worthily. God had put into his life spiritual gifts, capacities for great usefulness--but Timothy was not exercising His gifts to the full. The glory in him needed to be waked up. "Stir up the gift of God that is in you," bade Paul. The picture in his words, is that of a fire smoldering, covered up, not burning brightly, not giving out its heat. Timothy was bidden to stir up the fire that it might burn into a hot flame. Many Christians need the same exhortation. They have the fire in their hearts--but it needs stirring up. "Awake, my glory!"
Do you think you have been doing your best? Can you think of a day in the past week, which you made altogether as beautiful as you could have made it? Could not the artist's picture have been a little more beautiful, a little broader and nobler in its technique, a little finer in its sentiment? Could not the singer have sung her song a little better, with a little more heart, a little more sweetly! Could not the boys and girls at school have done a little better work and have been a little gentler among their schoolmates? Could not the men have been a little better Christians out in the world; and the women better, kindlier neighbors? The best day any of us ever lived--might we not have made it a little holier, a little fuller of divine love, a little more sacred in its memories? Must not every one of us confess that the glory in us needs awakening?
No doubt the body is a clog to the mind and the soul. Many of us have burning desires for holiness in our hearts--but somehow we have not the power to express the desires. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote to a friend, "You cannot sleep; well, I cannot keep awake." In the lethargic condition of his body, his magnificent intellectual powers were held as in a stupor. No doubt many men with great spiritual fervor are unable to express their earnestness of soul, because they are hampered by an unwholesome somnolence. We need to call upon our souls--to wake up! We need to call upon God--to wake us up.
"Awake, my glory!" The word gives dignity, splendor, honor, greatness, divineness to our life. It calls us to make our lives worthy of the name. The lowliest human life--is glorious in its character, in its possibility, in its destiny.
Recently a Sevres vase, some sixteen inches high, was put up at auction. It was dated 1763. No history of it was given. No one knew where it came from, who made it, or who its owners had been. But the vase was so exquisite in its beauty and so surely genuine, that it brought at auction twenty-one thousand dollars. Yet this rare and costly vase, was once only a mere lump of common clay and a few moist colors. The value was in the toil and skill of the artist who shaped and colored it with such delicate patience and such untiring effort. He did his best, and the vase today witnesses to his faithfulness.
If we would only always do our best in all our work, we would live worthily of the glory that is in us.
The Parthenon at Athens was encircled within by a sculptured frieze, five hundred and twenty feet in length. It was chiefly the work of Phidias. The figures on the frieze were life-size, and stood fifty feet above the floor of the temple. For nearly two thousand years the work remained undisturbed and nearly in its original state. By the explosion of a bomb-shell, the frieze was shattered about the close of the seventeenth century and fell upon the pavement. Then it was found that in every smallest detail the work was perfect. Phidias wrought, as he said, for the eyes of the gods--for no human eyes saw his work at its great height. It is in this spirit, that we should do all our work--not for men's eyes--but for God's. We should do perfect work, for no other work is worthy of the doer. "Awake, my glory!" Do your smallest task as beautifully as if you were doing a piece of heavenly ministry, and were working for the very eye of the Master Himself!
Let us set higher ideals for ourselves. We are not merely dust--we are immortal spirits. We are children of God--and this dignifies the smallest, lowliest things we do. Sweeping a room for Christ--is glorious work. Cobbling shoes may be made as radiant service in heaven's sight--as angel ministry before God's throne. The glory is in us--and we must live worthily of it. Let us call out our best skill, our rarest power, for everything we do. Our days should be ascending days in the scale, each one made more beautiful than the last. We never get to the best opportunity--tomorrow will bring us into a more heavenly atmosphere, than today's.
This is the call to us in all life. There is no end to life. There is always something beyond. Life is immortal. When our glory awakens and presses on, it will always find something beyond. Only heaven is the end.
"Awake, my glory!" Shall we not make this demand upon ourselves! We are asleep--and cannot wake up. Yet we must wake up--or we shall perish spiritually. The parable speaks of those whom their Lord had set to watch--but whom He warned against sleeping. "Lest when he comes and finds them sleeping." We need to pray for nothing more earnestly, than for power to keep awake.
We must get awake first ourselves. "Awake, my glory!" Then it is a great thing to be an awakener of others. Some men have this power in large measure. Everyone who comes near them is quickened, becomes more widely awake, is inspired to live better. Christ awakened the glory of His disciples. They were plain men, without the education of the schools, without the art of eloquence; but they lived with their Master, and He taught them, put Himself into their lives, then sent them forth. Every particle of the glory in them--was awakened, and they went out and woke up the world. That is what God wants us to do. Get awakened yourself, and then wake up your friends.
Shall we be content to stay asleep any longer? Must our harps still hang silent on the wall, giving out no music? Must the glory in us continue to sleep? Shall we not rather call upon ourselves to awake and then call upon God to awake us? Then our lives shall open into beauty and into power. Then shall we be the people God wants us to be!