"Oh how great is Thy goodness, which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee; which Thou hast wrought for them that trust in Thee before the sons of men! "—Psalm xxxi. 19.
The Psalmist has been describing, with the eloquence of the miserable, his desperate condition. He heaps up metaphors, such as "sickness," "captivity," "like a broken vessel," "as a dead man out of mind." But in his depth of desolation he grasps at God's hand, and is lifted out of the pit: "I trusted in Thee, O Lord, Thou art my God." So he treads the green earth and feels the sunshine again, and breaks out into this exclamation of wonder at the greatness of God's goodness. He obviously contrasts the goodness which is "laid up" with that which is "wrought," and the force of the antithesis is increased if we transpose, as we may warrantably do, the last words, and read the close of the verse, "which Thou hast wrought before the sons of men for them that trust in Thee." Much has been manifested before men's eyes; much more is laid up in store. Many notes are in circulation, but there is far more bullion in the strong room.
The contrast is, first, between the goodness already given and that still to be bestowed in this life. It is true of all our lives, if we consider them from the right point of view, that they have been crowded with the gifts of God's goodness; and it is true that that goodness is inexhaustible, and has more in reserve than all its past or present gifts. The table has been spread in the wilderness, and the verities of Christian experience more than surpass the legends of hungry knights finding banquets prepared by unseen hands in desert places. It is as when Jesus made the multitude sit down on the green grass and feast to the full, and yet abundance remained, undiminished by satisfying all the hungry applicants, and the bread that was broken yielded more basketfuls for to-morrow than the original quantity in the lad's hands. The goodness wrought is but the fringe and first beginnings of the mass laid up. All the gold that has been coined and put into circulation is as nothing compared with the wedges and ingots of massive bullion that lie in the strong room. God's riches are not like the world's wealth. One very soon gets to the bottom of its purse. Its " goodness" is very soon run dry; and nothing will yield an unintermittent stream of satisfaction and blessing to a poor soul, except the river of the Water of Life that proceedeth out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
So that contrast may suggest to us how quietly and peacefully we may look forward to all the unknown future, and hold up to it, so as to enable us to scan its general outlines, the light of the known and experienced past. Let our trustful prayer be: "Thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation," and the answer will certainly be: "I will not leave thee, till I have done unto thee that which I have spoken to thee of." Our memory ought to be the mother of our hope; and we should paint the future in the hues of the past. God's past is the prophecy of God's future; and my past, if I understand it aright, ought to rebuke every fear and calm every anxiety. We, and only we, have the right to say, "To-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant." That is delusion if said by any but by those that fear and trust in the inexhaustible God.
Another view of this contrast refers it to the goodness publicly given and that experienced in secret. In the context we read of being hid in the secret of God's presence, and of being kept secretly in His pavilion, where He shows us His "marvellous loving-kindness in a strong city." The goodness which is visible to "the sons of men " is nothing in comparison to that which is laid up in that secret place, and can only be found by those whose feet are familiar with the path that leads to it. Visible blessings are but pale shadows of the wealth that belongs to those who live in communion with God. The spiritual blessings of quiet minds and strength for work, the joys of communion with God, the sweetness of the hopes that are full of immortality, and all these delights and manifestations of God's inmost love and sweetness, which are granted only to waiting hearts that shut themselves off from the tumultuous delights of earth as the bases of their trust or the sources of their gladness—these are fuller and better than the selectest and richest of the joys that God's world can give. He does not arrange His gifts as dishonest traders do their wares, putting the finest outside or on the top, and the less good beneath. "Thou hast kept the good wine until now." It is they who inhabit "the secret place of the Most High," realising His presence, seeking to know His will, reaching out the tendrils of their hearts to twine round Him, and diligently, for His dear sake, doing the tasks of life, who taste the selectest dainties from God's gracious hands.
How foolish, then, to yield to the temptation to which some of us yield far too much, of fancying that the best good is the good that we can touch, and taste, and handle, and that men can see. No! no! Deep down in our hearts, a joy that strangers never intermeddle with nor know, a peace that passes understanding, a present Christ and a heaven all but present, because Christ is present—these are the good things for men, and these are the things which God does not, because He cannot, fling broadcast into the world, but which He keeps, because He must, for those that desire them and are fit for them. "He causeth His sun to shine, and His rain to fall on the unthankful and on the disobedient"; but the goodness laid up is better than the sunshine, and more refreshing, and fertilising, and cleansing than the rain, and it comes, and comes only, to them that trust Him and live near Him.
There may be bright flowers and waving crops on the surface that all men can see, but there are diamonds and gold in the depths which only the miners know.
Another illustration of this contrast is in the goodness wrought on earth compared with that laid up in heaven. In this life we sometimes see the messengers coming with one cluster of grapes on a pole; in the future we shall live in the vineyard. Here we drink of the river, there we shall be at the fountain-head. Here we are in the vestibule, there we shall be in the presence chamber. Heaven's least is greater than earth's greatest good. The conditions of the future life are so remote from experience, and so impossible to be conceived by us, and that tremendous thought of eternity is so overwhelming, that one does not wonder that many devout souls should find little comfort or stimulus in looking forward to " the rest that remains." But though we know so little, we do know that, just as good begets better in Christian experience here, good and better here will certainly lead to best in heaven. And the contrast will continue for ever and ever; for all through that strange eternity that which is wrought will be less than that which is laid up, and we shall never get to the end of God, nor to the end of His goodness. What God does for trusting souls here is much; what He has laid up for them there is infinitely more.
We have to fulfil the conditions as laid down by the Psalmist. If we "fear Him" and "trust in Him," then through all the growing experiences of earth, and at the moment of passing into heaven, and through eternities of calm progress and approximation to the perfect possession of the God who can never be fully possessed, Jesus will say to us, "Thou shalt see greater things than these," and new wealth will every moment be brought forth from the fulness of God, where it was laid up, and be wrought for us before the glorified sons of men and before the angels of heaven.