By J.R. Miller
"How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God!"
"You must have the bird in your eye--before you can find it in the bush." One who has no love for flowers, will walk through fields and gardens filled with flowers and never see one of them. One who has no music in his own soul may live and move continually amid gentle harmonies, and never be touched or thrilled by even the sweetest melodies. On the other hand, one who loves beauty--will find it everywhere. One who has a singing angel in his own heart--hears every sweet note that breathes in the air about him. Our own heart--makes our world for us.
Here is a man whose heart is full of longing for God. There are thousands in all ages who have the same craving. There are always people who are prevented from attending worship services which they love--those who are sick, those who must care for the sick, or those who by other duties, are compelled to miss the hours of devotion which they greatly love. Love for the worship of God, should be found in every child of God.
"My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God!" Loss is a wonderful revealer of value. Blessings brighten, as they take their flight. Many good things that we fail to appreciate when we possess them--come to have to us an incalculable worth--when we have lost them. An empty chair is ofttimes the first revealer of the true worth of a friend, whom we but inadequately prized when we had him.
No doubt the writer of this Psalm loved God's house when he enjoyed its privileges, when he could go to it freely--but now when he was shut away from it--he realized as he had not done before what it had been to him. There are many people who now attend church services, without finding any especial enjoyment in them, who, if deprived for a time of the privilege, would experience a great sense of loss. We all need God. Many people treat Him very indifferently. But when the hour of need comes, and they cannot find Him--they are in great darkness.
"Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you." Everybody ought to have a church home. There are people who now and then attend church services on special occasions--but who have no fixed church-going habits. They stay at home four or five Sundays; and then go some bright morning to hear the music or the sermon, or to see the people. These are not the people the Psalm describes. To "dwell" in the house of God--is to love the church and be deeply interested in its worship and work, always present at its services. The church has become to them--the home of their soul. These are "blessed." They feed continually at its table. They sit in its shadows with delight. They come to it at the close of days of toil and care and struggle--and renew their strength. They find comfort there in their sorrows; light in their darkness. The blessings of those who dwell in God's house, are very rich.
Then the result as here described is very beautiful. "They are ever praising you." This is the outcome of such a life of devotion--continual praise. The fire burns away upon the golden altar, and the incense rises without ceasing in sweet fragrance. The life that dwells in constant communion with God--is always a rejoicing life. Even in sorrow--its song is not hushed. It is ideal spiritual life which is described in these words, "They will are ever praising you." Always it will be a life of song. They live unbrokenly with God. Life flows from Him into their hearts continually, and the life they now live--is the divine life pulsing in them. They live with God in constant communion with Him and are ever at peace, with no fear, no sense of danger or loneliness, for in all experiences they have God. So it is that their life is a constant song, always joy, always praise.
"Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage." To be truly blessed, one must have a trust, a joy, a resource of strength, which never can be touched by any accident, by any calamity, and which never shall fail. This cannot be said of those whose confidence is in any earthly refuge, for on the brightest day, the ground of this trust may be swept away. But when our strength is in God, we know that though all things else may be torn out of our hands--our happiness shall remain undisturbed and secure.
Someone gives this little parable: Two birds went out one spring morning to build their nests. One found a tree by the river's edge and made her nest among its branches. The river murmured below, the sunshine played among the leaves, and the little birds were very happy. But one night there was a storm and a flood, and the tree was torn out and carried away in the waters--nest and nestlings and all. The other bird found a crag in the mountain and built its nest in a cleft of the rock. The storm swept over it and the floods rushed through the valley--but the nest with its nestlings was safe in the rock. The little parable needs no interpretation.
The man whose strength is in God, is further described very beautifully in the Revised Version: "In whose heart are the highways to Zion." There are highways in every heart--but they are not always highways to heaven. Sometimes they are paths made by sinful thoughts and imaginations; but in the godly man they are highways of prayer and love and obedience--roads that lead to heaven and God.
The picture in the mind of the poet, was the pouring of the people along all roads and highways toward Jerusalem to attend the feasts. Those who thronged these highways to Zion had in their hearts love for God's house and God's worship, and these are blessed. Every heart has its highway running through it. Our thoughts beat their own roads in our life. If they are clean thoughts, pure, white, loving--they make paths that lead to Zion, to God. But if our thoughts are unworthy, if they are unclean and unholy--they beat paths that run toward darkness, unworthiness and destruction.
"As they pass through the Valley of Weeping, they make it a place of springs," the Revised Version has it. Probably there was somewhere in the land--a gloomy gorge well known to travelers, called the Valley of Weeping. Some tragedy in the past may have given it its name, or it may have been called so, because of its frightsome depth and darkness. This dreary place is made into a place of springs--a valley of beauty and luxuriance by the rains. The meaning is very clear. The sad things in our lives are turned into joys, through the love of God in our hearts. Many of heaven's richest blessings, come through earth's tears, sorrows changed into joys, transfigured. Tears are dear to God. He gathers them in His bottle. Someone has been photographing a tear and describes the marvelous beauty that the photo reveals in it. Here floods of tears--become showers of blessing. So it is in life, through God's love and grace.
"I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness." Says Mr. Spurgeon, "God's doorstep is a happier rest--than downy couches within the pavilions of royal sinners." The humblest employment in the service of God--is better than to be a prince in the service of sin. The most menial work with Christ and for Him--is more honorable than the most conspicuous work in the world, unblessed by Christ's smile and favor. Young men, in choosing their calling or profession, should weigh well this truth. The glamour of fame is pitiful reward--for the degradation of one's life. It all comes to this--that the life of trust in God, is the only blessed life. It is better to have God, to live with God--than to have all this world's honors and riches, and not have God.
"No good thing will he withhold, from those who walk uprightly." This may seem to be a surprising statement at first glance. Does God withhold no good thing from His people? We must focus on the word "good." It is not merely the things which we want--that God always gives. Nor is it not the things which we think are good--that God gives. Perhaps they are not really 'good things'--as God sees them. We must always leave to Him--to decide whether they are good or not. He is wiser than we are--and knows just what effect on us, the things we crave would have. We must submit all our requests to Him--for final revision and approval, when we make them.
This is the teaching about prayer, so prominent in the New Testament, which bids us to add to all our most earnest pleadings: "Nevertheless not my will--but may Your will be done." If the thing we ask for does not come--we must therefore conclude that in God's sight, it is not a "good thing" for us. Thus it is--that God's withholdings are as great blessings to us--as His bestowings!
There is another phrase here, which we must study. It is "from those who walk uprightly" that God will withhold no good thing. It is only when we are walking obediently, in God's ways--that we have a right to claim this promise. For, "if I regard iniquity in my heart--the Lord will not hear me!" Psalm 66:18