The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup: you maintain my lot.…
I. ALL TRUE RELIGION CONSISTS IN DELIBERATELY CHOOSING GOD AS MY SUPREME GOOD. Now, how do we possess God? We possess things in one fashion and persons in another. The lowest and most imperfect form of possession is that by which a man simply keeps other people off material good, and asserts the right of disposal of it as he thinks proper. A blind man may have the finest picture that ever was painted; he may call it his, that is to say, nobody else can sell it, but what good is it to him? A lunatic may own a library as big as a Bodleian, but what use is it to him? Does the man that draws the rents of a mountain side, or the poet or painter to whom its cliffs and heather speak far-reaching thoughts, most truly possess it? The highest form of possession, even of creatures, is when they minister to our thought, to our emotion, to our moral and intellectual growth. We possess even things, really, according as we know them and hold communion with them. And when we get up into the region of persons we possess people in the measure in which we understand them, and sympathise with them, and love them. A man that gets the thoughts of a great teacher into his mind, and has his whole being saturated by them, may be said to have made the teacher his own. A friend or a lover owns the heart that he or she loves, and which loves back again; and not otherwise do we possess God. And the ownership must be, from its very nature, reciprocal. And so we read in the Bible, with equal frequency: the Lord is the "inheritance of His people, and the people are the inheritance of the Lord." He possesses me, and I possess Him, with reverence be it spoken, by the very same tenure, for whoso loves God has Him, and whom He loves He owns. We have God for ours in the measure in which our minds are actively occupied with thoughts of Him. We know Him. There is a real, adequate knowledge of Him in Jesus Christ; we know God, His character, His heart, His relations to us, His thoughts of good concerning us sufficiently for all intellectual and for all practical purposes. I wish to ask you a plain question. Do you ever think about Him? There is only one way of getting God for yours, and that is by the road of bringing Him into your life by frequent meditation upon His sweetness, and upon the truths that you know about Him. There is no other way by which a spirit can possess a spirit that is not cognisable by sense, except only by the way of thinking about Him to begin with. All else follows that. That is how you hold your dear ones when they go to the other side of the world.
II. THIS POSSESSION IS MADE AS SURE AS GOD CAN MAKE IT. "Thou maintainest my lot." The land, the partition of which amongst the tribes lies at the bottom of the illusive metaphor of my text, was given to them under the sanction of a supernatural defence; and the law of their continuance in it was that they should trust and serve the unseen King. It Was He, according to the theocratic theory of the Old Testament, and not chariots and horses, their own arm and their own sword, that kept them safe, though the enemies on the north and the enemies on the south were big enough to swallow up the little kingdom at a mouthful. And so, says the Psalmist allusively, in a similar manner the Divine Power surrounds the man who takes God for his heritage, and nothing shall take that heritage from him. The lower forms of possession, by which men are called the owners of material possessions, are imperfect, because they are all precarious and temporary. Nothing really belongs to a man if it can be taken from him. What we may lose we can scarcely be said to have. They are mine, they were yours, they will be somebody's else tomorrow. Whilst we have them we do not have them in any deep sense; we cannot retain them, they are not really ours at all. The only thing that is worth calling mine is something that so passes into and saturates the very substance of my soul, that, like a piece of cloth dyed in the grain, as long as two threads hold together the tint will be there. That is how God gives us Himself, and nothing can take that out of a man's soul. He, in the sweetness of His grace, bestows Himself upon man, and guards His own gift, which is Himself, in the heart. He who dwells in God and God in him lives as in the inmost keep and citadel. The noise of battle may rage around the walls, but deep silence and peace are within. The storm may rage round the coasts, but he who has God for his portion dwells in a quiet inland valley where the tempests never come. No outer changes can touch our possession of God. They belong to another region altogether. Other goods may go, but this is held by different tenure. Root yourselves in God, making Him your truest treasure, and nothing can rob you of your wealth. We here in this commercial community see plenty of examples of great fortunes and great businesses melting away like yesterday's snow. Then, too, there is the other thought. He will help us so that no temptations shall have power to make us rob ourselves of our treasure. None can take it from us but ourselves, but we are so weak and surrounded by temptations so strong that we need Him to aid us if we are not to be beguiled by our own treacherous hearts into parting with our treasure. A handful of feeble Jews were nothing against the gigantic might of Assyria, or against the compacted strength of civilised Egypt, but there they stood, on their rocky mountains, defended not by their own strength but by the might of a present God. And so, unfit to cope with the temptations that are round about us as we are, if we cast ourselves upon His power and make Him our supreme delight, nothing shall be able to rob us of that possession and that sweetness.
III. HE WHO THUS ELECTS TO FIND HIS TREASURE AND DELIGHT IN GOD IS SATISFIED WITH HIS CHOICE. "The lines" — the measuring cords by which the estate was parted off and determined — "the lines are fallen," because they would be thrown, "in pleasant places; yea!" not as our Bible has it, merely, "I have a goodly heritage," putting emphasis on the fact of possession, but "the heritage is goodly to me," putting emphasis on the fact of subjective satisfaction with the inheritance that he is to receive. No man that makes the worse choice of earth instead of God ever, in the retrospect, said, "I have a goodly heritage." One of the later Roman emperors, who was one of the best of them, said, when he was dying, "I have been everything, and it profits me nothing." No creature can satisfy your whole nature. Portions of it may be fed with their appropriate satisfaction, but as long as we feed on the things of earth there will always be part of our nature, like an unfed tiger in a menagerie, growling and grumbling for its prey, whilst its fellows are satisfied for the moment. No man that takes the world for his portion ever said, "The lines are fallen to me in pleasant places." For the make of your soul as plainly cries out "God!" as a fish's fins declare that the sea is its element, or a bird's wings mark it out as meant to soar. Man and God fit each other like the two halves of a tally. You will never get rest nor satisfaction, and you will never be able to look to the past with thankfulness, nor into the present with repose, nor into the future with hope, unless you can say, "God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever." But oh! if you do, then you have a goodly heritage, a heritage of quiet repose, a heritage of still satisfaction, a heritage which suits, and gratifies, and expands all the powers of a man's nature, and makes him ever capable of larger and larger possessions, of a God who ever gives more than we can receive, that the overplus may draw us to further desire, and the further desire may more fully be satisfied. The one true, pure, abiding joy is to hold fellowship with God and to live in His love. The secret of all our unrest is the going out of our desires after earthly things. They fly forth from our hearts like Noah's dove, and nowhere amid all the weltering flood can find a resting place. The secret of satisfied repose is to set our affections thoroughly on God. Then our wearied hearts, like Noah's dove, will fold their wings and build, and nestle fast by the throne of God. "All the happiness of this life," said William Law, "is but trying to quench thirst out of golden empty cups." But if we will take the Lord for the "portion of our cup" we shall never thirst.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot.