Psalm 73:25
Whom have I in heaven but you? and there is none on earth that I desire beside you.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(25) And there . . .—Or, Besides thee I have no delight on earth.

Psalms

REASONABLE RAPTURE

Psalm 73:25 - Psalm 73:26
.

We have in this psalm the record of the Psalmist’s struggle with the great standing difficulty of how to reconcile the unequal distribution of worldly prosperity with the wisdom and providence of God. That difficulty pressed more acutely upon men of the Old Dispensation than even upon us, because the very promise of that stage of revelation was that Godliness brought with it outward well-being. Our Psalmist reaches a solution, not exactly by the same path by which the writers of the Books of Job and Ecclesiastes find an answer to the problem. This man gives up the endeavour to solve the question by reflection and thought, and as he says, ‘goes into the sanctuary of God,’ gets into communion with his Father in heaven, and by reason of that communion reaches a conclusion which is, at all events, an approximate solution of his difficulty, viz. the belief of a future life, ‘Then understood I their end.’ The solemn vision of a life beyond the present, which should be the outcome and retribution of this, rises before him from out of his agitated thoughts, like the moon, pale and phantom-like, from a stormy sea. That truth, if revealed at all to the Psalmist’s contemporaries, certainly did not occupy the same position of clearness or of prominence as it does in our religious beliefs. But here we see a soul led up by its wrestlings to apprehend it, and as was said of a statesman, ‘calling a new world into existence to redress the balance of the old.’ So we get here a soul taught by God, and filled with Him by communion, therefore lifted to the height of a faith in a future life, and so made able to look out upon all the perplexities and staggering mysteries of earth’s mingled ill and good, if not with distinct understanding, at least with patient faith.

The words of my text indicate for us the very high-water mark of religious experience, the very apex and climax of what some people would call mystical religion to which this man has climbed, because he fought with his doubts, and by God’s grace was able to lay them. To him the world’s uncertain ill or good becomes infinitely insignificant, because for the future he has a clear vision of a continued life with God, and because for the present he knows that to have God in his heart is all that he really needs.

I. We have here, first, a necessity which, misdirected, is the source of man’s misery.

‘Whom have I in heaven but Thee? there is none upon earth that I desire besides Thee.’ If men would interpret the deepest voices of their own souls that is what they would all say, because, from the very make of our human nature there is not one of us, howsoever weak and sinful and small, but is great enough to be too great to be filled with anything smaller than God. Our thoughts, even the thoughts of the least enlightened amongst us, go wandering through eternity; and as the writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes says:-’He hath set eternity in men’s hearts.’ We all of us need, though, alas! so few of us know that we need, a living possession of a living perfect Person, for mind, for heart, for will. Nothing short of the ‘fulness of God’ is enough for the smallest amongst us. So, because we do not believe this, because hundreds of you do not know what it is for which your souls are crying out, ‘the misery of man is great upon him.’ You try to fill that deep and aching void in your hearts, which is a sign of your possible nobleness, and a pledge of your possible blessedness, with all manner of minute rubbish, which can never fill up the gap that is there. Cartload after cartload may be tilted into the bottomless bog, and there is no more solid ground on the surface than there was at the beginning. Oh, my brother! consult thine own deepest need; listen to that voice, often stifled, often neglected, and by some of you always misunderstood, which speaks in your wills, minds, consciences, hopes, desires, hearts; and is it not this: ‘My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God’?

There is none in the heaven, with all its stars and angels, enough for thee but Him. There is none upon earth, with all its flowers, and treasures, and loves, that will calm and still thy soul but only God. The words of my text spring from a necessity felt by every man, misdirected by a tragical majority of men, and therefore the source of restlessness and misery.

II. Secondly, we see here the longing which, rightly directed and cherished, is the very spirit of religion.

He, and only he, is the religious man, who can take these words of my text for the inmost words of his conscious effort and life. Only in the measure in which you and I recognise that God is our sole and all-sufficient good, in that measure have we any business to call ourselves devout or Christian people. That is a sharp test, is it not? Is it not a valid and an accurate one? Is that not what really makes a religious man, namely, the supreme admiration of, and aspiration after, and possession of God, and God alone? What a contrast that forms to our ordinary notions of what religion is! High above all creeds which are valuable as leading up to this enthusiasm of longing and rapture of possession, high above all preliminaries and preparations in the way of outward services and ceremonial or united acts of worship, which are only helps to this inward possession, rises such a thought of religion as this. You are not a Christian because you believe a creed. The very death of Jesus Christ is a means to this end. In order that we might come into personal, rapturous, and hallowing possession of God, His very Self in our hearts and spirits, Jesus Christ died and rose again. Do not mistake the staircase for the presence-chamber. Do not fancy that you are Christian people because you hold certain opinions or beliefs in regard of certain doctrines. Do not fancy that religion consists in either the mere outward practice of, or abstinence from, certain forms of conduct. Such things are the means to, or the outcome of, this inward devotion, but the true essence of our religion is that we recognise God as our only good, and that in Him we find absolute rest and perfect sufficiency.

Is that your religion, my brother? What a contrast these words of my text present not only to our notions of what constitutes religion, but to our practice! What is the thing that you and I crave most to have? What is the thing that we lament most of all when we lose? Where do our desires go when we take the guiding hand off them, and let them run as they will? For some of us there are dearer hearts on earth than His, Perhaps for some of us there are more dearly loved faces in heaven than His. Taking the two extreme possible cases, and supposing at the one end of the scale a man that had everything but God, and at the other end a man that had nothing but God, do we live as if we believed that the man that had everything minus God is a pauper; and the other who has God minus everything is ‘rich to all the intents of bliss’? Let us shape our desires, aspirations, efforts, according to that certain truth.

I do not need to remind you that this lofty height of conscious longing, not unblest with contemporaneous fruition, is above the height to which we habitually rise. But what I would now insist upon is only this, that whilst there will be variations, whilst there will be ups and downs, the periods in our lives when we do not consciously recognise Him as our supreme and single good are the periods that drop below duty and blessedness. Acknowledge the imperfections, but Oh, my friends! you Christian men and women, who know that these hours of high communion with a loving God are not diffused through your whole life, do not sit down contented, and say that it must be so; but confess them as being imperfections which are your own fault, and remember that just as much, and not one hairsbreadth more than, we can take these words of my text for ours, so much and no more, have we a right to call ourselves religious men and women.

III. Again, we have here the blessed possession, which deadens earthly desires.

That clause, ‘There is none upon earth that I desire besides Thee,’ might, I think, be rendered more accurately ‘With Thee’-that is to say, ‘possessing Thee,’-I desire none ‘upon earth.’ If we thus have been longing after God, and fuller possession of Him, and if in some measure, in answer to the desire, as is always the case, we have received into mind and heart and will more of His preciousness and sweetness, then that will kill the desires that otherwise would conflict with it. Our great poet, speaking about a supreme earthly love, says-

‘That rich golden shaft

Hath killed the flock of all affections else,

That lived in her.’

And the same thing is true about this higher life. This new affection will deaden, and in some sense destroy, the desires that turn to lower and to earthly things. The sun when it rises quenches the brightest stars that can but fade in his light and die. And so when, in answer to our longing, God lifts the light of His countenance-a better sunrise-upon us, that new affection dims and quenches the brightness of these little, though they be lustrous points, that shed a fragmentary and manifold twinkling over the darkness of our former night. ‘Walk in the light,’ and your heaven will be naked of all competing brightness.

Only remember that this supreme, and in some sense exclusive, love and longing does not destroy the sweetness of lower possessions and blessings. A new deep love in a man or a woman’s heart does not make their former affections less, but more, sweet and noble and strong. And so when we get to love God best, and to love all other persons and things in Him, and Him in them, then they become sources of dignity and nobleness, of sweetness and strength, in our lives, which they otherwise never would be. If you want to make all your family affections, for instance, more permanent, more lofty, and more blessed, let them be all in God:

‘I trust he lives in God, and there

I find him worthier to be loved,’


says the poet about one that had been carried into the other life. It is true about us in our relations to one another, even whilst we remain here. Let God be first, and the second rises higher in the scale than when we thought it first. The more our hearts are knit to Him and all other desires are subordinated to Him, the more do they become precious, and powers for good in our lives.

IV. And so, lastly, we have here the possession which is the pledge of perpetuity.

The Psalmist, in the last verse of my text, supposes an extreme, and in some sense, an impossible case. ‘My flesh’-my bodily frame-’and my heart’-some portion of my immaterial being-’faileth.’ The clause should probably be taken as hypothetical. ‘Even supposing that it has come to this,’ says he, ‘that I had been separated from my body, and that along with the body there had also been “consumed” {as is the meaning of the original word} some portion of my spiritual being, even then, though there were only a thin thread of personality left, enough to call “me” and no more, so to speak, I should cling with that to God, and I know that then I should have enough, for “God is the Rock of my heart, and my Portion for ever.” ‘ These two last words are obviously here to be taken in their widest extension. The whole context requires us to suppose that the Psalmist’s eye is looking across the black gorge of death to the shining table-land beyond. So here we are admitted to see faith in the future life in the very act of growth. The singer soars to that sunlit height of confidence in the endless blessedness of union with God, just because he feels so deeply the sacredness and the blessedness of his present communion with God.

Next to the resurrection of Jesus Christ the best proof of immortality lies in the present experience of communion with God. Anything is more reasonable than to believe that a soul which can grasp God for its good, which can turn itself to, and be united with, an infinite Being; and itself is capable of indefinite approximation towards that Being, should have its course and career cut short by such a surface thing as death. If there be a God at all, anything is more reasonable than to believe that the union, formed between Him and me by faith here, can ever come to an end until I have exhausted Him, and drawn all His fulness into myself. This communion, by its ‘very sweetness yieldeth proof that it was born for immortality.’ And the Psalmist here, just because to-day God is the Rock of his heart, is sure that that relation must last on, through life, through death, ay! and for ever, ‘when all that seems shall suffer shock.’

So, my brethren! here is the choice and alternative presented before us. And I ask you which is the wise man, he who clutches at external possessions which cannot abide, or he who hungers for that indwelling God, who sinks into the very substance of his soul, and is more inseparable from him than his very body? Which is the wise man, he of whom it shall one day be said, ‘This night thy soul shall be required of thee,’ and ‘His glory shall not descend after him,’ or the man who knows for what his heart hungers, and knowing it turns to God in Christ, by simple faith and lowly aspiration, as his enduring Treasure; and then, and therefore, can look out with a calm smile of security over all the tumbling sea of change, and beyond the dark horizon there where sight fails; and can say, ‘I am persuaded that neither things present, nor things to come, nor life, nor death, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate me from the God who is my Treasure, and the Life of my very self’?Psalm 73:25. Whom have I in heaven but thee? — To seek to, or trust in, to court or covet an acquaintance with? God is in himself more glorious than any other being, and must be in our eyes infinitely more desirable. He, and he alone, is the felicity and chief good of man. He, and none but he, who made the soul, can make it happy. There is no other in heaven or earth that can pretend to do it. Now, in order that God may be our felicity, we must have him, as it is here expressed; we must possess his favour, his image, and communion with him. We must choose him for a portion, and ensure to ourselves an interest in his love. What will it avail us that he is the felicity of souls, if he be not the felicity of our souls; and if we do not, with a lively faith, make him ours, by joining ourselves to him in an everlasting covenant? Our affection must be set upon him, and our delight must be in him. Our desires must not only be offered up to God, but they must terminate in God, as their ultimate object. Whatever we desire besides him must be desired in subordination to him and his will, and with an eye to his glory. We must desire nothing besides God but what we desire for God. He must have our heart, our whole heart, and no creature in earth or heaven must be permitted to share with him.73:21-28 God would not suffer his people to be tempted, if his grace were not sufficient, not only to save them from harm, but to make them gainers by it. This temptation, the working of envy and discontent, is very painful. In reflecting upon it, the psalmist owns it was his folly and ignorance thus to vex himself. If good men, at any time, through the surprise and strength of temptation, think, or speak, or act amiss, they will reflect upon it with sorrow and shame. We must ascribe our safety in temptation, and our victory, not to our own wisdom, but to the gracious presence of God with us, and Christ's intercession for us. All who commit themselves to God, shall be guided with the counsel both of his word and of his Spirit, the best counsellors here, and shall be received to his glory in another world; the believing hopes and prospects of which will reconcile us to all dark providences. And the psalmist was hereby quickened to cleave the closer to God. Heaven itself could not make us happy without the presence and love of our God. The world and all its glory vanishes. The body will fail by sickness, age, and death; when the flesh fails, the conduct, courage, and comfort fail. But Christ Jesus, our Lord, offers to be all in all to every poor sinner, who renounces all other portions and confidences. By sin we are all far from God. And a profession Christ, if we go on in sin, will increase our condemnation. May we draw near, and keep near, to our God, by faith and prayer, and find it good to do so. Those that with an upright heart put their trust in God, shall never want matter for thanksgiving to him. Blessed Lord, who hast so graciously promised to become our portion in the next world, prevent us from choosing any other in this.whom have I in heaven but thee? - literally, "Who is to me in the heavens?" That is, There is no one there that in my love for him can be compared with thee; no one who can do for me what thou canst do; no one who can meet and satisfy the needs of my soul as thou canst; no one who can be to me what God "is" - what a God "must" be. After all my complaining and my doubts there is no one, not even in the heavens, who cant supply the place of "God," or be to me what God is; and the warm affections of my soul, therefore, are "really" toward him. I feel my need of him; and I must and do find my supreme happiness in him. What would even heaven be to me without God? who there, even of the angels of light, could supply the place of God?

And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee - That is, Thou art all-sufficient; thou dost meet and satisfy the needs of my nature. All my happiness is in thee; no one on earth could be substituted in thy place, or be to me what thou art as God.

25, 26. God is his only satisfying good.25 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.

26 My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

27 For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee.

28 But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works.

Psalm 73:25

"Whom have I in heaven but thee?" Thus, then, he turns away from the glitter which fascinated him to the true gold which was his real treasure. He felt that his God was better to him than all the wealth, health, honour, and peace, which he had so much envied in the worldling; yea, He was not only better than all on earth, but more excellent than all in heaven. He bade all things else go, that he might be filled with his God. "And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee," No longer should his wishes ramble, no other object should tempt them to stray; henceforth, the Everliving One should be his all in all.

Psalm 73:26

"My flesh and my heart faileth." They had failed him already, and he had almost fallen; they would fail him in the hour of death, and, if he relied upon them, they would fail him at once. "But God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever." His God would not fail him, either as a protection or a joy. His heart would be kept up by divine love, and filled eternally with divine glory. After having been driven far out to sea, Asaph casts anchor in the old port. We shall do well to follow his example. There is nothing desirable save God; let us, then, desire only him. All other things must pass away; let our hearts abide in him, who alone abideth for ever.

Psalm 73:27

"For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish." We must be near God to live; to be far off by wicked works is death. "Thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee." If we pretend to be the Lord's servants, we must remember that he is a jealous God, and requires spiritual chastity from all his people. Offences against conjugal vows are very offensive, and all sins against God have the same element in them, and they are visited with the direst punishments. Mere heathens, who are far from God, perish in due season; but those who, being his professed people, act unfaithfully to their profession, shall come under active condemnation, and be crushed beneath his wrath. We read examples of this in Israel's history; may we never create fresh instances in our own persons.

Psalm 73:28

"But it is good for me to draw near to God." Had he done so at first he would not have been immersed in such affliction; when he did so he escaped from his dilemma, and if he continued to do so he would not fall into the same evil again. The greater our nearness to God, the less we are affected by the attractions and distractions of earth. Access into the most holy place is a great privilege, and a cure for a multitude of ills. It is good for all saints, it is good for me in particular; it is always good, and always will be good for me to approach the greatest good, the source of all good, even God himself. "I have put my trust in the Lord God." He dwells upon the glorious name of the Lord Jehovah, and avows it as the basis of his faith. Faith is wisdom; it is the key of enigmas, the clue of mazes, and the pole star of pathless seas. Trust and you will know. "That I may declare all thy works," He who believes shall understand, and so be able to teach. Asaph hesitated to utter his evil surmisings, but he has no diffidence in publishing abroad a good matter. God's ways are the more admired the more they are known. He who is ready to believe the goodness of God shall always see fresh goodness to believe in, and he who is willing to declare the works of God shall never be silent for lack of wonders to declare.

Whom have I in heaven, or in earth? as it follows. There is no other person nor thing in the world from which I can seek or hope for happiness, or which I am willing to accept as my portion. Let sinners have an earthly prosperity, I am satisfied with thee, and with thy favour. Since thou givest me support and conduct here, and carriest me safe from hence to eternal glory, what do I need more? or what can I desire more?

But thee; which words must necessarily be understood here from the next clause, where they are expressed. Whom have I in heaven but thee,.... Which includes God the Father, Son, and Spirit; God the Father, as his only covenant God and Father; Christ as his only Mediator, Saviour, and Redeemer, Head, Husband, Advocate, and Intercessor; the Spirit as his only sanctifier, Comforter, earnest, and sealer; and is expressive of their being the one and only Lord God, the sole object of worship, trust, and confidence; his only helper and guide; and in whom his supreme happiness and glory lay; and it excludes the sun, moon, and stars, in the lower heavens, from being the object of worship and trust; and angels and glorified saints in the highest heavens: the words may be rendered, "who is for me in heaven?" (e) on my side, my protector and defender; see Romans 8:31.

and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee; or "with thee" (f); there are many things on earth desirable, as riches, health, friends, food, raiment, &c. but not to be compared with God and Christ, and the blessed Spirit; with the love of God, the grace of Christ, and the communion of the Holy Ghost; there are none to be loved and delighted in as they, nor anything so desirable as fellowship with them: or "with thee I desire not the earth" (g); the whole world, and all things in it, are nothing in comparison of God; if a man was possessed of the whole of it, and had not interest in the Lord, he would be miserable; and if he has an interest in him, he has enough without it; for all things are his, God is all in all; wherefore he is willing to leave all, and be with him for ever: the Targum is,

"who is like unto thee, that is, mine in heaven but thee? and with thee I do not desire a companion on earth.''

See Psalm 89:6.

(e) "quis pro me?" Gejerus. (f) "tecum", Pagninus, Montanus, Tigurine version, Masculus, Gejerus. (g) "nec terram totam diligo tecum", Gejerus.

Whom have I in {n} heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.

(n) He sought neither help nor comfort of any save God only.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
25. But thee is rightly supplied in the first line, which receives its completion and explanation from the second. The idea which logically is one is divided into two clauses for the sake of the poetical rhythm.

beside thee] Lit. with thee. If I have Thee, there is none else in heaven and earth whom I desire. Thou art my only good and source of happiness in the whole universe. Cp. Psalm 16:2, R.V., “Thou art my Lord; I have no good beyond thee.”Verse 25. - Whom have I in heaven but thee? Who is there in all the host of heaven on whom I can place any reliance, excepting thee? None of thy "holy ones," neither angel nor archangel, can afford me any support or sustenance, preserve or guide or save me, but THOU only (comp. Job 5:1). And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. Much less can earth supply me with a substitute for God. On him my heart's affections are centred (comp. Psalm 63:1, "My soul thirsteth top thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is"). The poet calms himself with the solution of the riddle that has come to him; and it would be beneath his dignity as a man to allow himself any further to be tempted by doubting thoughts. Placing himself upon the standpoint of the end, he sees how the ungodly come to terrible destruction in a moment: they come to an end (ספוּ from סוּף, not ספה), it is all over with them (תּמּוּ) in consequence of (מן as in Psalm 76:7, and unconnected as in Psalm 18:4; Psalm 30:4; Psalm 22:14) frightful occurrences (בּלּהות, a favourite word, especially in the Book of Job), which clear them out of the way. It is with them as with a dream, after (מן as in 1 Chronicles 8:8) one is awoke. One forgets the vision on account of its nothingness (Job 20:8). So the evil-doers who boast themselves μετὰ πολλῆς φαντασίας (Acts 25:23) are before God a צלם, a phantom or unsubstantial shadow. When He, the sovereign Lord, shall awake, i.e., arouse Himself to judgment after He has looked on with forbearance, then He will despise their shadowy image, will cast it contemptuously from Him. Luther renders, So machstu Herr jr Bilde in der Stad verschmecht (So dost Thou, Lord, make their image despised in the city). But neither has the Kal בּזה this double transitive signification, "to give over to contempt," nor is the mention of the city in place here. In Hosea 11:9 also בּעיר in the signification in urbem gives no right sense; it signifies heat of anger or fury, as in Jeremiah 15:8, heat of anguish, and Schrder maintains the former signification (vid., on Psalm 139:20), in fervore (irae), here also; but the pointing בּעיר is against it. Therefore בּעיר is to be regarded, with the Targum, as syncopated from בּהעיר (cf. לביא, Jeremiah 39:7; 2 Chronicles 31:10; בּכּשׁלו, Proverbs 24:17, and the like); not, however, to be explained, "when they awake," viz., from the sleep of death (Targum),

(Note: The Targum version is, "As the dream of a drunken man, who awakes out of his sleep, wilt Thou, O Lord, on the day of the great judgment, when they awake out of their graves, in wrath abandon their image to contempt." The text of our editions is to be thus corrected according to Bechai (on Deuteronomy 33:29) and Nachmani (in his treatise שׁער הגמול).)

or after Psalm 78:38, "when Thou awakest them," viz., out of their sleep of security (De Wette, Kurtz), but after Psalm 35:23, "when Thou awakest," viz., to sit in judgment.

Thus far we have the divine answer, which is reproduced by the poet after the manner of prayer. Hengstenberg now goes on by rendering it, "for my heart was incensed;" but we cannot take יתחמּץ according to the sequence of tenses as an imperfect, nor understand כּי as a particle expression the reason. On the contrary, the poet, from the standpoint of the explanation he has received, speaks of a possible return (כּי seq. fut. equals ἐάν) of his temptation, and condemns it beforehand: si exacerbaretur animus meus atque in renibus meis pungerer. התחמּץ, to become sour, bitter, passionate; השׁתּונן, with the more exactly defining accusative כּליותי, to be pricked, piqued, irritated. With ואני begins the apodosis: then should I be... I should have become (perfect as in Psalm 73:15, according to Ges. 126, 5). Concerning לא ידע, non sapere, vid., Psalm 14:4. בּהמות can be taken as compar. decurtata for כּבהמות; nevertheless, as apparently follows from Job 40:15, the poet surely has the p-ehe-mou, the water ox, i.e., the hippopotamus, in his mind, which being Hebraized is בּהמות,

(Note: The Egyptian p frequently passes over into the Hebrew b, and vice vers, as in the name Aperiu equals עברים; p, however, is retained in פרעה equals phar-aa, grand-house (οἶκος μέγας in Horapollo), the name of the Egyptian rulers, which begins with the sign of the plan of a house equals p.)

and, as a plump colossus of flesh, is at once an emblem of colossal stupidity (Maurer, Hitzig). The meaning of the poet is, that he would not be a man in relation to God, over against God (עם, as in Psalm 78:37; Job 9:2, cf. Arab. ma‛a, in comparison with), if he should again give way to the same doubts, but would be like the most stupid animal, which stands before God incapable of such knowledge as He willingly imparts to earnestly inquiring man.

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