Whom have I in heaven but you? and there is none on earth that I desire beside you.…
The psalmist here uses the largest possible terms to assert his preference for God over all else. There is something very noble in such an assertion, so unqualified and so fearless, appealing, as it does, to the great Searcher of all hearts. Bow far off we are from being able to make the like assertion! Where is the single eye to God's glory? and how frequent the attempt to "serve two masters," and these irreconcilable. But such noble assertions as this are not to be regarded as beyond Christians generally. We have no proof that Asaph was a man of extraordinary piety. But though few only can adopt such language without presumption, still, to be a righteous man at all, it is necessary that he prefer God to aught besides, whether in heaven or in earth. A man may distrust himself whether he really does thus prefer God, and desire that he may do so far more, but the fact may be, all the same, that God is supreme in his affections. It is not the same thing our making God our chief good, and our being able to appeal to Him that we do. Just as there may be faith without assurance. There can be no real religion without God being first in our regard, but there may be this and yet no realization of it in our feelings. But our purpose now is to take the psalmist's words and to use them as a measure by which all may judge men's distance from moral excellence. And we do this —
I. IN REGARD TO THE UNCONVERTED. God is not in all their thoughts, much less supreme in them. Nor do they wish Him to be. The psalmist desired, but they do not, to be for ever with God. It is said that men dread annihilation, the soul dying with the body. But do men dread this? Have not poetry and philosophy greatly exaggerated here? Unquestionably, man's dissatisfaction with the present is proof of his being designed for another state of being. But whilst a man may have the witness in himself that he is not to be annihilated, he yet may have no horror at the thought of it. He would be glad to. know that death is but an everlasting sleep. For they cannot endure to look forward. Wrath and retribution are there. Hence they cannot shrink, as do the godly, from ceasing to exist. But is not this the most affecting of all evidences of the vast extent of human degeneracy — that any should be willing to perish as do the brutes: that the soul should not shrink from annihilation? But the psalmist — how different his desire! And this not only as to the future, but as to the chief good of the present.
II. THE RIGHTEOUS. Too often they love life over-much. If their circumstances be easy, how they shrink from death; how few are "ready to depart and be with Christ, which is far better." Christians who cling to this world are more blameworthy than the ungodly who shrink from the next. For the psalmist, God alone could suffice. And in regard to our hope of the future, take heed lest our delight in heaven be that there our loved ones are, rather than that God is there. The presence of God and Christ make heaven. Let us learn to say, "Whom have I in heaven," etc.
(Henry Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.