Whom have I in heaven but you? and there is none on earth that I desire beside you.…
It is not - What have I, but - Whom? Things, however many, rich, glorious, beautiful, cannot satisfy the soul, neither in heaven any more than on earth. Not in things, but in persons, the personal soul must find its portion. And not in many, but in One; to whom the soul can look, to whom at all times it can come, and to whom, as here, it can lift up its cry, "Thou art the Strength of my heart, and my Portion forever." But -
I. SUCH DELIGHT IN GOD HAS BEEN HELD TO BE IMPOSSIBLE. For example:
1. Calvin, a learned, devout, and in the main a true expositor of Scripture, but sadly wanting in those more gentle and tender instincts which are absolutely essential to its full and accurate understanding, has, in commenting on our text, actually said, "If we give the smallest portion of our affections to the creatures, we in so far defraud God of the honour which belongs to him." Now, that is utterly untrue and in dire contradiction to the Word which says, "If we love not our brother, whom we have seen, how can we love God whom we have not seen?"
2. And there are many devout souls haunted with the fear that, in loving those around them with the intense affection which they know they bear towards them, they are somehow defrauding God of what is due only to him. And yet more, when they compare the love which they have for God with the love which they cherish for those dear to them on earth, the latter love seems so much warmer and deeper than the former that, when they come to a text like this, they hesitate, and confess to themselves that such words are not for them - for them they would not be true. And they are sore troubled about this, and scarce know what to do. They would like to be able to say them, but they feel they cannot. Now, of course, there are many people in whom it would be hypocrisy, gross and palpable, were they to speak as does the psalmist here. They are cold, hard, worldly, and so earth-bound that they never think about loving God. The utmost you can get from them is a vague confession that they "suppose they ought to." But we are thinking of really devout, godly souls, who nevertheless sorrowfully confess that the words of our text, and the many others like them, are far beyond what they can say. Such people believe, apparently, that, though our blessed Lord has commanded them to love the Lord their God with all their heart, they do not, and they doubt if any one ever has done so, or can. They do not seem to see how serious is the charge they thus bring against the Lord - that he has commanded what it is impossible to obey. Earthly parents do not deal with their children so, but they seem to think our heavenly Father does.
II. BUT IT IS POSSIBLE FOR US, NEVERTHELESS.
1. Here, at any rate, stands one declaration of it. The psalmist, if he did not express, as we are certain he did, his own deep and sincere feeling, must have been the victim of delusion, or else a wretched hypocrite. But who thinks that?
2. And he is not alone in such utterance. The psalms are full of them, and we have already referred to the first and great commandment. The New Testament also speaks of "perfect love" - just that sentiment which our text tells of.
3. And there have been and are thousands of souls in which such love dwells, to whom God is their "exceeding Joy," whose supreme delight is in God.
4. And what seems to does not really contradict this. For consider the elements of our love to God. They are - complete distrust of self; confidence in God only for the supply of our souls' deepest needs, such as pardon, peace, purity, eternal life; holy reverence and awe and gratitude. But all these are far other than what we cherish to our fellow men; so that they do not clash one with the other. On the contrary, the lower love may help the higher, and the higher cannot exist if the lower do not.
III. BUT IF SUCH SUPREME DELIGHT IN GOD BE POSSIBLE, IT IS ALSO INFINITELY DESIRABLE. All life, even the most mean and poor, becomes transformed, transfigured, glorified, by means of it. The soul becomes independent of all earthly favour, and heeds not this world's frown, nor all "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." Unspeakably blest, and blessing is the characteristic of the soul in whom this love of God dwells. See Paul's "sorrowful, but always rejoicing," etc.
IV. IT IS ATTAINED THROUGH OBEDIENCE AND TRUST. "He that keepeth my commandments, he it is that loveth me," said our Lord. Such obedience is not only the fruit, but the root, of the love which grows out of it. We obey, and we come to love him whom we obey. Serving is the secret - not alone the sign, but the source also - of loving. Our love for our children is in proportion to the sacrifices we make for them. It is so everywhere and forever. - S.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.