Verse 2. My soul. All my nature, my inmost self. Thirsteth. Which is more than hungering; hunger you can palliate, but thirst is awful, insatiable, clamorous, deadly. O to have the most intense craving after the highest good! this is no questionable mark of grace. For God. Not merely for the temple and the ordinances, but for fellowship with God himself. None but spiritual men can sympathise with this thirst. For the living God. Because he lives, and gives to men the living water; therefore we, with greater eagerness, desire him. A dead God is a mere mockery; we loathe such a monstrous deity; but the ever living God, the perennial fountain of life and light and love, is our soul's desire. What are gold, honour, pleasure, but dead idols? May we never pant for these. When shall I come and appear before God? He who loves the Lord loves also the assemblies wherein his name is adored. Vain are all pretences to religion where the outward means of grace have no attraction. David was never so much at home as in the house of the Lord; he was not content with private worship; he did not forsake the place where saints assemble, as the manner of some is. See how pathetically he questions as to the prospect of his again uniting in the joyous gathering! How he repeats and reiterates his desire! After his God, his Elohim (his God to be worshipped, who had entered into covenant with him), he pined even as the drooping flowers for the dew, or the moaning turtle for her mate. It were well if all our resortings to public worship were viewed as appearances before God, it would then be a sure mark of grace to delight in them. Alas, how many appear before the minister, or their fellow men, and think that enough! "To see the face of God" is a nearer translation of the Hebrew; but the two ideas may be combined -- he would see his God and be seen of him: this is worth thirsting after!
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 1-3. are an illustration of the frequent use of the word Elohim in the second book of Psalms. We give Fry's translation of the first three verses. --
As the hart looketh for the springs of water,
So my soul looketh for thee, O Elohim.
My soul is athirst for Elohim for the living El:
When shall I go and see the face of Elohim?
My tears have been my meat day and night,
While they say to me continually, Where is thy Elohim?
Verse 2. My soul thirsteth for God, etc. See that your heart rest not short of Christ in any duty. Let go your hold of no duty until you find something of Christ in it; and until you get not only an handful, but an armful (with old Simeon, Luke 2:28 ); yea, a heartful of the blessed and beautiful babe of Bethlehem therein. Indeed you should have commerce with heaven, and communion with Christ in duty, which is therefore called the presence of God, or your appearing before him. Exodus 23:17 Psalms 42:2 . Your duties then must be as a bridge to give you passage, or as a boat to carry you over into the bosom of Christ. Holy Mr. Bradford, Martyr, said he could not leave confession till he found his heart touched and broken for sin; nor supplication, till his heart was affected with the beauty of the blessings desired; nor thanksgiving, till his soul was quickened in return of praises; nor any duty, until his heart was brought into a duty frame, and something of Christ was found therein. Accordingly Bernard speaks, Nunquam abs te absque te recedam Domine: I will never depart (in duty) from thee without thee, Lord. Augustine said he loved not Tully's elegant orations (as formerly) because he could not find Christ in them: nor doth a gracious soul love empty duties. Rhetorical flowers and flourishes, expressions without impressions in praying or preaching, are not true bread, but a tinkling cymbal to it, and it cannot be put off with the empty spoon of aery notions, or lovely (that are not also lively) songs: if Christ talk with you in the way (of duty) your heart will burn within you. Lu 24:16,32. Christopher Ness's "Crystal Mirror," 1679.
Verse 2. The living God. There are three respects especially in which our God is said to be the living God. First, originally, because he only hath life in himself, and of himself, and all creatures have it from him. Secondly, operatively, because he is the only giver of life unto man. Our life, in the threefold extent and capacity of it, whether we take it for natural, or spiritual, or eternal, flows to us from God. Thirdly, God is said to be the living God by way of distinction, and in opposition to all false gods. Thomas Horton.
Verse 2. (last clause). A wicked man can never say in good earnest, When shall I come and appear before God? because he shall do so too soon, and before he would, as the devils that said Christ came "to torment them before their time." Ask a thief and a malefactor whether he would willingly appear before the judge. No, I warrant you, not he; he had rather there were no judge at all to appear before. And so is it with worldly men in regard of God, they desire rather to be hidden from him. Thomas Horton.
Verse 2. Come and appear before God. When any of us have been at church, and waited in the sanctuary, let us examine what did we go thither to see: a shadow of religion? An outside of Christian form? A graceful orator? The figures and shapes of devotion? Surely then we might with as much wisdom, and more innocence, have gone to the wilderness "to see a reed shaken with the wind." Can we say as the Greeks at the feast John 12:21 , "We would see Jesus?" Or, as Absalom 2 Samuel 14:32 , "It is to little purpose I am come to Jerusalem if I may not see the King's face." To little purpose we go to church, or attend on ordinances, if we seek not, if we see not God there. Isaac Watts, D.D., 1674-1748.
Verse 2. If you attempt to put a little child off with toys and fine things, it will not be pleased long, it will cry for its mother's breast; so, let a man come into the pulpit with pretty Latin and Greek sentences, and fine stories, these will not content a hungry soul, he must have the sincere milk of the word to feed upon. Oliver Heywood.
Verse 2. When shall I come and appear before God? --
While I am banished from thy house
I mourn in secret, Lord;
"When shall I come and pay my vows,
And hear thy holy word?"
So while I dwell in bonds of clay,
Methinks my soul shall groan,
"When shall I wing my heavenly way
And stand before thy throne?"
I love to see my Lord below,
His church displays his grace;
But upper worlds his glory know
And view him face to face.
I love to worship at his feet,
Though sin attack me there,
But saints exalted near his seat
Have no assaults to fear.
I am pleased to meet him in his court,
And taste his heavenly love,
But still I think his visits short,
Or I too soon remove.
He shines, and I am all delight,
He hides and all is pain;
When will he fix me in his sight,
And never depart again?
Isaac Watts, from his Sermons.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 1-2. Those who have enjoyed the presence of God in the public ordinances of religion will greatly desire, if deprived of them, to be favoured with them again ... Prevention from attending the public ordinances of God's house may be made the means of great benefit to the soul.
- By renewing our relish for the provisions of the Lord's house, which so soon and so often palls.
- By making us to prize the means of grace more highly. There is, through human degeneracy, a proneness to value things less, however excellent in themselves, because of their being common, or plentiful, or of easy attainment.
- By driving us more directly from God. H. March.
Verse 1-3. The home sickness of the soul. What awakens it in the soul? To what is it directed, or does it point or tend? Wherewith can it be satisfied? By the bitter, but ofttimes wholesome food of tears. J. P. Lange.
- What thirsts? "my soul."
- For what? "for God."
- In what way? "when shall I come."
Or, the cause, incentives, excellences, and privileges of spiritual thirst.
Verse 2. (last clause). The true view of public worship.
Verse 2. (last clause). Appearance before God here and hereafter. Isaac Watts, D.D., Two Sermons.