Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaks vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood:…
This is a weighty prayer expressed in a poetical way. Poetry, it is scarcely needful to say, is not inconsistent with the deepest earnestness and the greatest solidity of thought. Indeed, it may be said that the highest degree both of solidity and earnestness finds its fit utterance in terms of the imagination. You will observe that this verse depends upon the preceding one — "Rid me and deliver me from the hand of strange children that our sons may be as plants." It is implied that the separating of the strange and false is necessary to the true welfare of the others. Strange children are those of an alien spirit, who had a tendency and purpose entirely foreign to that of Israel. Their pleasure was in the unreal, the hollow, the false. Their life was not controlled by the truth of God, but swayed by caprice, passion, and false ideas. The young are peculiarly susceptible to such influences. They are sometimes absolute slaves of those of their own age who are more vigorous, confident, and aggressive than themselves. Hence the force of the prayer, "Rid me from strange children that our sons may be as plants." This connection also shows, if anything were needed to show it, that the psalmist has in view the qualities of the soul.
I. BOTH FIGURES EXPRESS, IN DIFFERENT WAYS, THE NOTIONS OF FIXITY AND SUBSTANCE. Both plant and column are fixed and steady. The plant is fixed by its roots into the earth: the column fixed into the building. Fixity is essential to both. Young men and young women, will you remember this: fixity of root, of foundation, is the first necessity? Be rooted. Strike into the great truths and remain there; else there is no reality, no substance. All men acknowledge the need of fixed principles and beliefs. You must have a fixed belief about the rising of the sun and its setting. There must be a fixed belief in the seasons, in the coming of winter and spring and summer and autumn. If men did not hold these beliefs fixed as the basis of their activity the human world would come to a stop. So life must be rooted in fixed belief in God, and the way of reconciliation and fellowship with Him. This belief alone gives meaning and purpose and substance to life. The more you are rooted and fixed in great truths the stronger and more substantial you will be.
II. GROWTH AND PERMANENCE ARE BOTH SET FORTH IN THE TEXT. Growth belongs just as necessarily to the conception of a plant as permanence does to that of a column. I have been speaking of the necessity of fixity, of having the root fixed in great truths. Does this seem to any one inconsistent with growth? How can we be growing and changing if we are fixed? If we are indissolubly bound to anything how can we grow? I ask, how can the plant grow, immovably fixed to one spot? How does it grow but by being fixed? Growth of soul and spirit is the result of holding firmly to great central truths and drawing the very pith of them into the being. With the strength of these in him one lays hold of more. These great truths lead the soul to more. They cry for more; they guide and direct and clear the horizon, and give man a spirit, courage, and impulse for more. Growth and permanence must go together.
III. IN THE PLANT AND THE COLUMN WE HAVE REPRESENTED INDIVIDUALISM, SEPARATENESS, INDEPENDENCE, AND, ON THE OTHER HAND, COMBINATION, UNITY, MUTUAL HELP, AND SUPPORT. The true conception of human life is the union of these two tendencies. He is the best and strongest man who is individual, self-reliant, independent, and yet has the woman's love for the general reason, generous trust, wide sympathies; and who trusts above all things the deep feelings which he has in common with all men.
IV. THE TEXT SPEARS OF TWO DIFFERENT KINDS OF BEAUTY — THAT OF THE PLANT, THE BEAUTY OF NATURE; THAT OF THE SCULPTURED COLUMN, THE BEAUTY OF CULTURE. These are two sides of the same: the one is not to be attributed to man specially, and the other specially to woman. We are reminded that all beauty of soul must be the result both of nature and of cultivation. That the soul may be beautiful, it must be a living soul, living by contact with the infinite, in fellowship with God. This is truly the beauty of nature, the deepest nature. Young men and young women, let us think that we have a God who delights in our happiness, a loving God. And let this make us glad. Such a gladness has a powerful influence. The gladness of a devout heart has a healing, sweetening, purifying influence on the whole being. Remember also that you owe it to the world and to God to cultivate your mind and heart. This is your time to grow. Your first duty is to grow mentally, morally, spiritually yourselves. Your fresh enthusiasm is given you for the purpose of growth. Try both how devout you can be, and how well stored and educated your mind can be made, and you will be a mighty force in the world for good.
(J. Leckie, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood: