There be many that say, Who will show us any good? LORD, lift you up the light of your countenance on us.…
There is said to be a strange plant in South America which finds a moist place and sends its roots down and becomes green for a little while until the place becomes dry, when it draws itself out and rolls itself up and is blown along by the wind until it comes to another moist place, where it repeats the same process. On and on the plant goes, stopping wherever it finds a little water, until the spot is dry; then in the end, after all its wanderings, it is nothing but a bundle of dry roots and leaves. It is the same with those who drink only of this world's springs. They drink and thirst again, blown by the winds of passion and desire, and at last their souls are nothing but a bundle of unsatisfied desires and burning thirsts. We must find something better than this, or perish forever. Summum bonum: —
1. In the history of ancient Greece we read of two sages — the Weeping and the Laughing Philosopher. The one saw nothing but the dark side; the other looked always at the bright. We all know people belonging to both of those schools. It depends very largely on natural temperament to which of the two any person belongs; for some are naturally melancholy, others sanguine. Partly, too, it may depend on fortune; an early disappointment or the treachery of a supposed friend may poison a man's mind to all healthy influences; whereas those into whose soul the iron has never entered are disposed to think lightly of the sufferings of others.
2. Somewhat analogous to this division of mankind is that in the text; only, it goes far deeper. It speaks of a dissatisfaction with life which is consistent with much surface gaiety, and of a satisfaction which may be felt amid misfortune.
I. THE RESTLESS HUMAN HEART. You may have seen a picture called The Pursuit of Pleasure, in which pleasure is represented as an airy winged figure of dazzling beauty, floating just above the ground, turning her enchanting face towards those who are in pursuit of her; but still retreating from them, as she draws them on. In the forefront of her pursuers are the young, with flushed faces and confident eyes, almost touching with their outstretched hands the fringes of her robe. Farther behind are those who have been longer in pursuit; they are falling back in the race, and there is the dread of disappointment in their eyes; but their determination is all the stronger not to miss the prize. In the rear are those following in despair; and some have stumbled and fallen, and are being trodden upon as the mad pursuit rushes by. Is it not too true? Who can say, My desires are fulfilled, and I am satisfied? If the blinds were drawn up from the windows of our hearts, what would be seen within? The pain of desires which have found no fulfilment, the disappointment of hopes once cherished but abandoned now, the dread of coming change, which may strew the ground with the fair fabric of our prosperity. So difficult is it to catch the butterfly of happiness, and it is still more difficult to keep it. The men of thought and the men of action and the men of leisure arrive by different ways at the same result. They are seeking some great good which will satisfy the heart, but they have not found it; and they are going about asking, Who will show us it? And then life is so short. Now or never you must find the secret. Are we to live and die without once clasping our fingers over the prize, without once getting our hearts filled to the brim?
II. THE HEART AT REST. "Lord, lift upon us the light of Thy countenance." He is not asking, "Who will show us any good?" for he knows the secret, he has found the supreme good, and he has nothing else to desire but this — that more and more God would lift on him and those for whom he speaks the light of His countenance. What does it mean? The phrase is a very Oriental one. It is derived from the experience of an Eastern court. The light of the countenance is the expression which it wears when it is pleased. We know on what conditions God is now well pleased with the children of men. He is always well pleased with Christ, and with all whom He sees in Christ. This, therefore, in the language of Christian experience, is the solution of the problem — to have Christ, and ever more of Christ. How is this the solution? How, in other words, does Christ give the heart rest?
1. He does so by taking it off itself. When the kindness and love of God are revealed to the heart, when the self-sacrifice of Christ becomes the great theme of our joy and hope, a similar disposition is begotten in us: we love all those whom God loves and for whom Christ died, and we are ready to serve them, because Christ has said, Inasmuch as ye do it to the least of these, ye do it unto Me. You cannot help thinking well of mankind when you are trying to do them good, and you can never despise any soul if you believe Christ has esteemed it worthy of His life.
2. Not only does Christ draw the heart off itself, but He also gives it an object large enough to satisfy its desires. It possesses the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Who can estimate all that this implies? How can anyone with such a heritage go about moaning, c, Who can show us any good?" No, "the voice of rejoining and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous"; "the shout of a King is in their midst." The human heart is large and hungry; but Christ can fill it, and He can keep it full.
3. This is a satisfaction which will never fail, but become deeper and more precious at the very stage when all other satisfactions are failing. It is not a wise view of religion which represents it as a substitute for all the good things by which life is enlarged and enriched — such as knowledge, love, health, work, and success. Rather is religion the sunny atmosphere in which all these things are to be enjoyed.
(J. Stalker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.