There be many that say, Who will show us any good? LORD, lift you up the light of your countenance on us.
The quest for good is a perplexing one. Its sources, like the Nile's, are not easily found. "There be many that say, Who will show us any good?" Good in the highest sense is not the natural heritage of man. Youth with its brightness is a very short season; the burden and heat of the day come very soon; old age with its decrepitude and weakness hovers not far off. Even the best earthly lot does not satisfy.
I. THERE IS DISSATISFACTION AND INQUIRY. Alone of all the creatures, man seems to have an ill-fitting lot; and alone of all the creatures, he is conscious of his misery. Very wretched according to our standard is the life of the worm that crawls in the damp earth, or the mole that burrows blind and cold in the ground; still more wretched are the lives of those animals that riot in putridity and fatten on corruption: but whatever their lot may appear to us, they are conscious of no want, and may quite contentedly fulfil the ends of their being. It is otherwise with man. He is not in his right place; he is not "in harmony with his surroundings"; he was meant to be happier. The bee is quite satisfied gathering its honey; the sheep is quite pleased nibbling the green meadow; the swallow desires nothing better than to skim the summer air, and build its nest and rear its young under the eaves of the old castle, and be oil again in winter to the sunny south. Of all creatures, man alone feels that his lot is not satisfactory. In his nature alone there is an unsatisfied longing. He is ever on the alert to hear of "good," in case it be the thing that will allay his craving. But commonly he looks in the wrong direction. Are there any instances of true repose and satisfaction of soul obtained from the broken cisterns? It is not on what men have, but on what they are, that their true happiness depends. And men cannot be what they should be till they come to Christ. "I am the Bread of Life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst!"
II. THERE ARE VARIOUS ANSWERS. How poor and unsatisfying are the answers often given to, the quest, for good! "I have been reading such, an amusing book," says one, "a very delightful tale; do get hold of it, you will enjoy it so much." "Have you been to such and such an entertainment?" asks another; "it is so superior to anything of the kind." Or, taking some of the answers given in a somewhat different sphere of life — one tells of a market where commodities are got cheap; another of an improvement in the management of his business; and another of a way of making the house more snug, or the person more comfortable or more comely. The advertisements of the newspapers, the prospectuses of new companies, the circulars of tradesmen, the critiques of reviewers, the arguments of politicians, are all in their way answers to the question, "Who will show us any good?" All very well in their way and in their place; but very miserable surely if there is no higher level of good — no higher region to which the soul may aspire.
III. THE TRUE ANSWER. The Psalmist tacitly puts all these aside; one blessing, and one only, fills his eye and his heart; and it deserves our best attention — "Lord, lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us." It was common among the Hebrews to speak of a person's countenance as low or fallen when he was grieved or angry, and as lifted up when he was pleased and happy. We hold down our face when we are dejected, we hold it up when we are glad. So, also, a radiant or shining countenance stands opposed to a dark or gloomy one. The lights of the countenance, the eyes, sparkle in the one ease, and are dull in the other. The two emblems are combined in the request to God to lift up the light of His countenance on us. The thought is, "Look on us with a happy, shining face — with the happy, shining face with which Thou didst look on our Elder Brother, when Thy voice was heard from the clouds, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.' Transfer to us the satisfaction which Thou hast for Him; accept us in the Beloved. Transform our hearts into His image; make us to resemble Him, 'the firstborn among many brethren.'" If only we are in a right relation to the Son of God, the countenance of the Father is sure to be lifted up. Has the light of God's countenance never yet been lifted up on someone? Why should it not? "God is in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing unto them their trespasses." We are His ambassadors entreating you to be reconciled! And the way to all good is so open and so glorious.
(W. G. Blaikie, D. D. , LL. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.