Verse 4. Then will I go unto the altar of God. If David might but be favoured with such a deliverance as would permit his return, it would not be his own house or heritage which would be his first resort, but to the altar of God his willing feet should conduct him. His whole heart would go as sacrifice to the altar, he himself counting it his greatest happiness to be permitted to lie as a burnt offering wholly dedicated to the Lord. With what exultation should believers draw near unto Christ, who is the antitype of the altar! clearer light should give greater intensity of desire. Unto God my exceeding joy. It was not the altar as such that the psalmist cared for, he was no believer in the heathenism of ritualism: his soul desired spiritual fellowship, fellowship with God himself in very deed. What are all the rites of worship unless the Lord be in them; what, indeed, but empty shells and dry husks? Note the holy rapture with which David regards his Lord! He is not his joy alone, but his exceeding joy; not the fountain of joy, the giver of joy, or the maintainer of joy, but that joy itself. The margin hath it, "The gladness of my joy," i.e., the soul, the essence, the very bowels of my joy. To draw near to God, who is such a joy to us, may well be the object of our hungering and thirsting. Yea, upon the harp will I praise thee. His best music for his best love. When God fills us with joy we ought ever to pour it out at his feet in praise, and all the skill and talent we have should be laid under contribution to increase the divine revenue of glory. O God, my God. How he dwells upon the name which he loves so well! He already harps on it as though his harp music had begun. What sweeter sounds can music know than these four words? To have God in possession, and to know it by faith, is the heart's heaven -- a fulness of bliss lies therein.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 4. Then will I go unto the altar of God. Let us remember that the approach to God in the holy place is by means of the altar, whence eternally ascendeth the fragrance and the preciousness of the one whole, perfect burnt offering, and where for ever and ever the divine holiness resteth and feedeth with its pure fire with infinite satisfaction, with inconceivable delight. Oh, what a holy, a divine, a wondrous place is this altar of God! That altar now means all the value and everlasting efficacy of the one offering of Christ unto God for us; and it is in the full power and blessedness thereof that we draw nigh to God. To this point, to this unspeakably blessed position, the light and the truth of God will attract the child of God. Toward this altar all the rays of the light of divine favour and grace, and of divine truth and holiness, have from eternity converged; and from this point they shine forth toward and upon the soul and heart of the poor, far off penitent, attracting him to that altar where he may meet his God. Let us then come to the altar of God; let us enter the cloud of holy incense that filleth the tabernacle of the Most High; let us realise how perfectly God is satisfied with that which Christ has done, with his obedience in dying to meet the claims of divine justice on the sinner, and to complete the perfect surrender of himself as our exceeding joy, even the gladness of our joy, the heart, essence, substance, and reality of our joy. John Offord, 1868.
Verse 4. Then will I go unto the altar of God. He would with cheerfulness run and offer up the sacrifice of thanksgiving to his gracious deliverer; he would take his own soul as the burnt offering, and kindle and burn it up with the fire of a vigorous love and raised affections terminating upon God, the flames whereof should ascend to him alone ... Unto God my exceeding joy, or, as the Hebrew is more exactly translated, unto God the gladness of his joy -- that which gave a relish to every other comfort, which was the soul and life of his pleasures, and could only make them real and lasting; it was God who raised his joy to fulness of satisfaction and contentment. William Dunlop.
Verse 4. Then will I go ... unto God. The expression of going to God implies SUBMISSION and FRIENDSHIP
- Submission. I will go and pay my homage to him, as my Sovereign; I will go and hear what he says; I will go and receive his orders.
- Friendship. I will go and consult him, and converse with him as a friend; and be thankful that, in such a troublesome and ensnaring world, I have such a friend to advise with.
- I will go and tell him my griefs; how greatly I am distressed with some particular disorder in my body, or with some disturbance in my family, or with some disappointment in my worldly circumstances, or (which is worse than all of them together) with a sad darkness in my soul. 2. I will go and tell him my joys, for even in this vale of tears "my heart is" sometimes "glad, and my glory rejoiceth." 3. I will go and tell him of my sins. He knows them, indeed, already, but he shall hear them from me. 4. I will go and tell him my fears; how greatly I am distressed at times, when I perceive this or the other corruption so strong, which I thought had received its death wound ... how I tremble when I have by my folly provoked the Lord to leave me, for fear he will never return again, etc. 5. I will go and tell him my hopes, for some hope I have amidst all my discouragements ... I will go and tell him all this; I will unbosom and unburden my whole heart to him; and if my necessities did not drive me to him, I should go to him from inclination. Condensed from Samuel Lavington.
Verse 4. Unto God. Believers are not satisfied in the use of religious duties, unless they arrive at God himself in those duties. We speak not here of that arrival at God himself which is by and after all duties, to a beatific vision of God in glory, but we speak of that arrival at God himself which is to be had in duties, while we are in the exercise of duties; namely, to attain to God's special presence in them, in an actual communion, communication and conversing with God, so that we are spiritually sensible he is with us therein. I say God's special presence and actual communion, to distinguish it from that ordinary habitual presence and communion of God's being with a believer at all times. John 14:16 . Nathanael Homes.
Verse 4. My exceeding joy. The psalmist might well call God his exceeding joy, for it infinitely exceeds all other joy in its nature, degree, and duration. Samuel Lavington.
Verse 4. My exceeding joy. As faith acquires more strength, we come to think of God and address him in more endearing terms. J. P. Lange.
Verse 4. Exceeding joy. This can be said of no other joy. All other beauties have their boundaries, all other glories have their glooms. This is that illimitable sea, God. E. Paxton Hood.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 1-2,4-5. Five mys:
- My cause -- "plead it."
- My strength -- "thou art."
- My joy -- God is.
- My soul -- "why disquieted."
- My God.
- The good man's duty -- expressed by going to God.
- His blessedness -- expressed by rejoicing in God. Samuel Lavington.
Verse 4. (first clause). When? Then. Where? Altar of God. Who?
- Why? My exceeding joy.
Verse 4. (second clause). It is God alone who can be an exceeding joy to his creatures. W. Dunlop's Sermons.
Verse 4. The joy of joy. The soul of soul joy.
Verse 4. The great object of public worship, its bliss, and the praise resulting from attaining it.
- The medium of joy, the altar of God, or God in Christ Jesus.
- The springs of joy, or the attributes of God -- mercy, justice, power, holiness, as seen in the atonement.
- The value of joy, as comfort, strength, etc.
Verse 4. God my exceeding joy. A most rich and precious title.
Verse 4. (last clause). Possession, praise, resolution.