The eyes of all wait on you; and you give them their meat in due season.…
: — We lose a great deal by taking verses by themselves, considering them as detached and isolated passages in place of noticing how closely they may be connected with the context. For instance, if we take as our text the last of these three verses, "The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works," no doubt we should find abundant material of important discourse, for when the psalmist throws in the word "all His ways, all His works," there is a largeness of assertion, in reference to the Divine dealings, which displays strong faith and close examination. But when you read the two preceding verses, "The eyes of all wait upon Thee," etc., you naturally ask, how came the psalmist to pass so directly from contemplating the goodness of God, as displayed in the arrangements of providence, to the expressing in such unqualified terms his conviction as to the righteousness of all God's ways, and the holiness of all God's works? What connection is there? How does the one thought or belief originate in the other? The word "righteousness," as used of God, most frequently denotes that perfection whereby God is most just and holy in Himself, and observes the strictest rules of equity in every proceeding of His creatures; and when the psalmist asserts God to be "righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works," he evidently means that every dispensation is marked both by justice and goodness, that, however unable we may be to discern or apprehend the reasons for each separate dealing, we are bound to infer, from the very nature of God, that there must be reasons worthy alike of infinite wisdom and infinite lovingkindness. Now the psalmist must be considered as using the language of faith when he speaks of God as "righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works"; for every one who observes and studies the actings and dealings of God, whether with our race generally or with individuals in particular, must know that there is much which cannot now be explained, whose fitness is matter of faith, but; certainly not of demonstration, the Divine judgments being, as they are elsewhere described by David, "a great deep." In the course of His providence God frequently acts upon grounds, and orders things in methods, which we have no ability to discover and to trace; and we can exclaim with St. Paul, "How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out." But whilst we allow that the language is the language of faith, let us consider a little more closely whether there is any reason for surprise that God's dealings should be inscrutable, and utterly past our comprehension. You are to remember that even amongst men the dealings of the wise are often founded on maxims which are not understood or appreciated by the great mass of their fellows, so that conduct appears unaccountable which nevertheless proceeds from the very highest sagacity. Is it, then to be wondered at if God, whose wisdom is as far above the wisest upon earth as the heaven is above this lower creation, should be incomprehensible in His actions, often doing very differently from what ourselves would have done, and proceeding in a way which appears to us the least likely to produce the desired result? Besides, what place, comparatively, would there be for faith if there were no depths in the Divine judgments, if every reason were so plain, every design so palpable that no one could do otherwise than acquiesce in the fitness and goodness of all God's appointments. In any case of affliction, when trouble is now laid upon a man, the difficult, but, at the same time, profitable, duty is that of submitting meekly to the chastisement in the assurance that God doeth all things well, though to our apprehensions His proceedings may be dark. Let God remove the darkness of His proceedings, and let everything be as luminous to us as it is to Himself, and this duty, instead of being difficult, would cease to demand any effort; we should then walk by sight, and not by faith, and there would be nothing in bearing sorrow patiently when we saw the precise end which it was accomplishing, or the precise benefit which it was securing. There is something very beautiful in the imagery of the psalmist, "Thy righteousness is like great mountains; Thy judgments are a great deep." The "judgments are a great deep," the immense ocean, unfathomable by any human line; but the "righteousness is like the great mountains," giants of the earth, whose foundations are washed by unfathomable waters, whilst their summits lose themselves in the clouds. The mountains are to be considered as rising out of the waters and girding them around on every side. We know, from the parts of the mountains which are visible, that there are lower parts concealed from us by the waters, and are confident that the hidden parts meet the base around which the waters lie. And thus we should learn, from the righteousness which is conspicuous when we look towards the heavens, that there is a righteousness all around those lower obscurities which we are unable to penetrate, that the foundations which are beneath the waves are of the same material as the summits which are above, and which often glow with sunlight, though they may be sometimes shrouded in mist. God's judgments are likened to the sea, whose depths we have no power of exploring; but out of this sea, at the same time encompassing and containing it, rise towering mountains, and these are the righteousness of God — that righteousness within which all His dealings rest, which may be said to hold them in their embrace, as the roots of the everlasting hills the multitudes of the waters, and which again, like the mountains, may be so discerned above the billows as to leave no doubt of its existing beneath. And as the hills which encircle a deep lake not only form by their foundations and sides the reservoir into which it is gathered, but make a mirror of their surface in which they glass their tops; so not only does the righteousness of God enclose and hold His judgments, but often so images itself that an attentive eye may catch the reflection. What, then, have we to do, when we launch out into the deep, but to remember the mountains which soar on every side, over whose massive, but far spreading, roots we may be sure that we are voyaging even when no line could take the soundings of the mighty abyss? We should never feel lost, as it were, in the judgments, if we kept in mind the righteousness of God; we should never be so far from land as to feel adrift on a boundless waste if faith were in exercise — faith in the perfections and attributes of our Maker — for there would be always some peak of the everlasting hills discernible by faith, some eminence coming out from the vast gatherings of cloud, serving as a beacon in the midst of the tempest. We can, however, imagine a man to have prepared himself, according to our foregoing directions, for surveying what is inexplicable in God's dealings by fortifying his belief in God's attributes. Still, when his eyes are on the great deep, it will be hard to keep faith in full exercise: he will be apt to forget, as he gazes on the dark, unfathomable expanse, the principles of which he thought himself so certain, and he will feel, "Oh for some distinct, some visible evidence of that goodness of God which seems so opposed by all this darkness, and all this confusion!" And you shall have it, the psalmist seems to exclaim; I will summon men of every country and every age, from the north and the south, from the east and the west; send hither the young and the old, I will summon every beast of the field, I will summon every fowl of the air; let the sea give up its multitude, let every leaf, every flower, every water-drop, pour forth its insect population — who feeds the innumerable throng? who erects their storehouses? who gives the supply for all these tenants of earth, sea, air? How comes it to pass that, morning after morning, the sun awakens huge cities to life, and causes the silent forest to echo with the warblings of birds, and calls into activity thousands of creatures on every mountain and every valley, and yet out of all this interminable throng thus revivified every dawn there is not the solitary being for whom there is no provision in the granaries of nature? "The eyes of all wait upon Thee; Thou openest Thy hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing." Every planet, as it marches on, is moved by God; every star, as it revolves, is turned by God; every flower, as it opens, is unfolded by God; every blade of grass, as it springs, is reared by God — "He preserveth man and beast." Aye, and if in place of suffering thought to wander across the spreadings of the universe, and nowhere can it reach the spot in which God is not busied, and nowhere find a creature of which He is not the life — if in place of this you carry it down to the inhabitants of this lower creation, what a picture is spread before it by the simple fact that in every department of animated nature the Almighty is momentarily engaged in ministering to the myriads whom He has called into existence — that from the king upon his throne to the beggar in his hovel, from the grey-haired veteran to the infant at the breast, from the lordly lion to the most insignificant reptile, from the vast leviathan to the tiny animalcule which we know only by the microscope, there is not to be found a solitary instance of a being neglected or overlooked by God, not a single case of life sustained independently of God, or that could last one second if God withheld His inspiration. And with this picture to turn to, after gazing till the vision has ached on the great deep of God's judgments, ought you not to be always able to refresh yourselves in the midst of dark and intricate dispensations, and to get quit of the doubts and suspicions which may be raised by the apparent want of a strict moral government? Indeed, my brethren, there is not a morsel of food which we eat, there is not a bird which cheers us by its wild music, there is not an insect which we see sporting in the sun which ought not to reprove us if we mistrust God because His ways are unsearchable. Can it be that God is unmindful of the world, or that He is not studying what is for the good of His creatures, when He shows Himself attentive to the wants and comforts of the very meanest living thing, and whilst He regulates the course of the stars, and marshals the ranks of the cherubim and the seraphim, He bends down from His glorious throne and applies a guardianship as close to the ephemeral insect that floats by in the breeze, as though it were the only animate production, or the only one that required His providential care?
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season.