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This Psalm, for the subject-matter of it, bears a re
semblance to the xliid. Under the figure of an Israelite, deprived of all access to Jerusalem and the sanctuary, (whether it were David when driven away by Absalom, or any other person in like circumstances at a different time,) we are presented with the earnest longing of a devout soul, after the house and presence of God; a beautiful and passionate eulogy on the blessedness of his ministers and servants; a fervent prayer for a participation of that blessedness; and an act of faith in his power and goodness, which render him both able and willing to grant requests of this nature.
1. How amiable are thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts!
Thus ardently does a banished Israelite express his love for Sion, his admiration of the beauty of holiness. Nay, Balaam himself, when, from the top of Peor, he saw the children of Israel abiding in their tents, with the Glory in the midst of them, could not help exclaiming, “ How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel!” How amiable, then, may the Christian say, are those eternal mansions, from whence sin and sorrow are excluded; how goodly that camp of the saints, and that beloved city, where righteousness and joy reign triumphant, and peace and unity are violated no more; where thou, O blessed Jesus, Lord of hosts, King of men and angels, dwellest in glorious majesty, constituting by thy presence the felicity of thy chosen !
2. My soul long eth, yea, even fainteth, for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh cry out, for the living God. It is said of the queen of Sheba, that
beholding the pleasantness of Jerusalem, the splendour of Solomon's court, and, above all, the magnificence of the temple, with the services therein performed, " there was no more spirit in her.” What wonder, therefore, if the soul should be affected, even to sickness and fainting, while, from this land of her captivity, she beholds, by faith, the heavenly Jerusalem, the city and court of the great King, with all the transporting glories of the church triumphant: while, in her meditations, she draws the comparison between her wretched state of exile upon earth, and the unspeakable blessedness of being delivered from temptation and affliction, and admitted into the everlasting courts of Jehovah ? Whose heart and flesh do not exult, and shout aloud for joy, at a prospect of rising from the bed of death, to dwell with the living God; to see the face of him, “ in whom is life, and the life is the light of men ?” Did the Israelites, from all parts of Judea, go up, with the voice of jubilee, to keep a feast at Jerusalem ; and shall Christians grieve, when the time is come for them to ascend, and to celebrate an eternal festival in heaven?
3. Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow, or, ringdove, a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God!
The Psalmist is generally supposed, in this verse, to lament his unhappiness, in being deprived of all access to the tabernacle, or temple, a privilege enjoyed even by the birds, who were allowed to build their nests in the neighbourhood of the sanctuary. It is evidently the design of this passage to intimate to us, that in the house, and at the altar of God, a faithful soul finds freedom from care and sorrow, quiet of mind, and gladness of spirit; like a bird, that has secured a little mansion, for the reception and education of her young. And there is no heart, endued with sensibility, which does not bear its testimony to the exquisite beauty and propriety of this affecting image.
4. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house : they will be, or, are, still praising thee.
Here the metaphor is dropped, and the former sentiment expressed in plain language. Blessed are, not the mighty and opulent of the earth, but they that dwell in thy house, the ministers of the eternal temple in heaven, the angels and the spirits of just men made perfect; their every passion is resolved into love, every duty into praise; hallelujah succeeds hallelujah; they are still, still for ever, praising thee. And blessed, next to them, are those ministers and members of the church here below, who, in disposition, as well as employment, do most resemble them.
5. Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee: in whose heart are the ways of them; Heb. the ways are in the heart of them.
Not only are they pronounced blessed who dwell in the temple, but all they also who are travelling thitherward, (as the whole Jewish nation was wont to do three times in a year,) and who are therefore meditating on their journey, and on the way which leads to the holy city, trusting in God to strengthen, and prosper, and conduct them to the house of his habitation, the place where his glory dwells. Such a company of sojourners are Christians, going up to the heavenly Jerusalem ; 'such ought to be their trust in God, and such the subject of their thoughts.
6. Who, passing through the valley of Baca, make it a well: the rain also filleth the pools. 7. They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God: or, the God of gods appeareth, i. e. to them in Zion.
The true import of these two verses seems to be this, that the Israelites, or some of them, passed, in their way to Jerusalem, through a valley that had the
of Baca, a noun derived from a verb which sig. nifies to weep; that in this valley they were refreshed by plenty of water; that with renewed vigour they proceeded from stage to stage, until they presented themselves before God in Zion. The present world is to us this valley of weeping. In our passage through it, we are refreshed by the streams of divine grace,
flowing down from the great fountain of consolation; and thus are we enabled to proceed from one degree of holiness to another, until we come to the glorified vision of God in heaven itself. Mr. Merrick's poetical version of this passage is extremely beautiful; and applies at once to the case of the Israelite, and to that of the Christian :
Sleet, who, their strength on thee reclin'd,
8. O LORD God of hosts, hear my firayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. 9. Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed.
After extolling the happiness of those who dwelt in the temple, and of those who had access to it, the Psalmist breaks forth into a most ardent prayer to his God, for a share in that happiness. He addresses him as the Lord of hosts, almighty in power; as the God of Jacob, infinite in mercy and goodness to his people; as their shield, the object of all their trust for defence