Return to your rest, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you.
I. THAT REST IS ONE OF THE RIGHTFUL POSSESSIONS OF THE SOUL. It was designed for the soul. God would not have created a soul to be the perpetual victim of fret, worry, and distress, as we see many souls now are. It must have belonged to the soul. Hence it is called "thy rest." In the primal paradise, in which our first parents were placed, they enjoyed this rest. Theirs was the repose of the intellect, of the affections, of the will; all were at rest in God.
II. BUT THE SOUL HAS GOT AWAY FROM THIS REST. What need to labor any proof of this?
1. You can read the fact in men's very looks - the careworn countenance, the anxious mien, the sad, disappointed air.
2. In their words, whether spoken or written; weariness is written on them all.
3. In the frantic but futile efforts they make to find a substitute for what they have lost.
III. THAT IT CAN, IF IT WILL, RETURN UNTO ITS REST. Yes, in forsaking sin, surrender to Christ, and trust in him, rest is still attainable. - S.C.
I. THE STATE OF THOSE WITH WHOM THE LORD HATH DEALT BOUNTIFULLY.
Return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.
1. As to the first of these questions — "Whence did I come?" Modern thought is seeking rest for itself, not in God, but in scientific theories of the origin of man. We have no fault to find with such researches. All I say now is that the scientist does not give you anything restful, even if he succeeds in proving that God had no hand in your creation. You go on craving a leather in heaven just the same. You are restless as ever, no less restless than the child who knows his mother is in her grave, but who, nevertheless, cries for her unceasingly. You want the truth, but may not your filial instinct be truthful? May not your sense of sonship be a sense of a stupendous truth?
2. How shall I live? How make the most and best of life? What guides shall I follow? Here again we find a point of rest only in a personal God, a God of providence, who interferes (I am not afraid of the term) in our affairs. You may prove, if you can, that your life moves on under the guidance of mere, settled, mechanical order. That conclusion will not give you rest. If this world of men which we see and of which we are a part, with all its clashing and contradiction, its triumph of evil and its struggle of good, is uncontrolled by a Supreme Will, if men like grains of sand, merely fly before the wind that drives them against the rocks and against each other, if change, and sickness, and ruin, and death come just as the water shoots the precipice, just as two and two make four, — it is but mockery to point our souls to such a conception of life and say, "Return unto thy rest, O my soul." We can obtain a calm, restful outlook upon life, a tranquil, cheerful participation in life only as we get back to God. We find these only when Christ leads us as He led the disciples of old to the market, and points to the little dead sparrow, and says "Your Father marked its fall; fear not, ye are of more value than many sparrows." We shall not be frightened at a mystery, provided we know God is behind it.
3. And, once more, the soul finds no rest as regards the question of destiny, until it finds it in God. Whatever restful thought of heaven we have, whatever knowledge of its conditions we have, comes entirely from the moral quality of heaven, and therefore from the thought of God; for, take out God from the universe, and no determinate moral quality is left anywhere, in heaven or in earth. Heaven is heaven to us because God is there; because God's law rules there absolutely; because its happiness is the happiness of perfect moral order.
(M. R. Vincent, D.D.)
(W. J. Potter.)
1. The Lord hath dealt bountifully with those from whom He hath removed any affliction under which they groaned, and for deliverance from which they prayed.
2. The Lord hath dealt bountifully with you, if you can observe a particular mark and signature of His providence in your mercies.(1) When the means by which any mercy is brought about are extraordinary, and far beyond the reach of human wisdom, it serves to show that God Himself hath been their help.(2) Sometimes the providence of God is seen in the season of the mercy. It is bestowed when it is most needed, or when it may be of greatest use.(3) The signature of providence is sometimes seen in the nature of the mercy, when it is exactly suited to the state and character of the person concerned.
3. The Lord deals bountifully with His people, when He gives them a clear and satisfying view of the salutary end, and enables them to make a sanctified use both of their trials and mercies.
4. The Lord hath dealt bountifully with those whom He hath admitted to the most intimate and spiritual communion with Himself; those whom He hath carried above the sphere of temptation, filled them with sensible joy in the Holy Ghost here, and earnest desires after the complete and perpetual enjoyment of His presence in heaven.
II. THE IMPORT OF THE PSALMIST'S RESOLUTION.
1. Return and give the praise where it is due; and humbly acknowledge God as the author of thy mercies.
2. This expression may imply returning to God, and delighting in Him as our reconciled God, and supreme portion and happiness.
3. This expression implies a confidence and reliance on God for protection and security against future dangers.
III. PRACTICAL IMPROVEMENT.
1. Observe one great branch of the sinfulness of the world in general — forgetfulness of God, and unthankfulness for His mercies.
2. Let me beseech every serious person to consider how far he hath sinned against God and his own comfort by forgetting the goodness of God, both in common and special mercies.
3. Directions to those who are truly sensible of the goodness of God.(1) Be circumspect and watchful; though a thankful frame of spirit is of great advantage, both for your sanctification and peace, yet it is not out of the reach of temptation; let it not produce pride, security, or self-sufficiency.(2) Be public-spirited and useful; if the Lord hath dealt bountifully with you, commend His service, and speak to His praise.(3) Be frequent and diligent in secret prayer. This is the way to preserve your watchfulness, and to increase your usefulness.
(J. Witherspoon, D.D.)
Homilist.I. AS AN ORIGINAL INHERITANCE. "Return unto thy rest." There is no rest for souls in places, however fair, beautiful, or grand; not in any externalisms, however calm and sunny. It is nowhere but in their own moral states. But what are the moral states that constitute soul rest?
1. Unquestioning trust.
2. Satisfying love.
3. Conscious rightness.
4. Congenial pursuits.
II. AS A LOST INHERITANCE. The whole world is in disquiet. Men are trusting, but their trust is not unquestioning. The foundations of their hopes prove to be sand. The staff they grasp for support proves to be a reed that breaks beneath their weight. Everything they rest on fails them. Men are loving, but their love is unsatisfying. They are loving the imperfect, and the discovery of their imperfections distress them. They are loving the unreciprocating, and their indifference fills them with painful solicitude. They are loving the inconstant, and their inconstancy tosses them as timbers on the billows. They love the unhappy, and the sorrows they discern bring a shivering shadow over themselves. Men want righteousness; their deep cry is, "Oh! wretched man that I am." They see the right, they reach after it, but it eludes their grasp. Men are active, but the pursuits they follow are uncongenial wish their nature, and felt to be unworthy of their lofty powers and destiny.
III. AS A RECOVERABLE INHERITANCE. The text implies the possibility of regaining the rest. How can this soul-rest be recovered? The Gospel and the Gospel alone returns the satisfactory answer. "Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." How does He give rest? By supplying man with the necessary conditions. He presents the only object for unquestioning trust. One that is all-wise, all-kind, all-powerful, the unchangeable and eternal God. And He bids man to trust in Him that liveth for ever. He presents to man the only object for a satisfying-love. One who is all perfect, who is light, in whom is no darkness at all. One who returns in an infinite degree all the love that is given. One who is constant, who will never leave and never forsake. One who is happy — the "ever blessed God." He supplies man with the means of becoming consciously right. He presents congenial pursuits — pursuits connected with the advancement of holiness, the promotion of human happiness, and the glory of God.
(Homilist.)1. From vain endeavours to relieve a burdened conscience, return unto thy rest, O my soul, in the perfected redemption and pardoning grace of Jesus.
2. From the distress and disquiet of inconsistent conduct, return unto thy rest, O my soul, in unreserved obedience to Christ. Cease that opposition; forsake that evil path: cast from thee the accursed thing; cease to do evil; and thus return unto thy rest.
3. From the fretting anxieties and disappointments of pride, return unto thy rest, O my soul, in the humility of Christ.
4. Disappointed in thy search for happiness elsewhere, return unto thy rest, O my soul, in the love of Jesus, and the peace the world cannot give. As the dove flew to and fro, finding no rest for the sole of her foot till she returned to the ark, so the believer cannot repose away from Christ, our true and only refuge.
5. From vain speculations and sceptical doubts, return unto thy rest, O my soul, by childlike faith in Christ.
6. From the sorrow caused by afflictions, return unto thy rest, O my soul, in the sure mercies of a God of Love. Rest in His wisdom; He knows what is most needful for thee. Rest in His love; He will not withhold what is good. Rest in His power; He is able to do what His love prompts and His wisdom plans. Rest in His tenderness; for as a father pitieth his children, so He pitieth thee. Rest in His faithfulness; He cannot deny Himself. Gratefully remember past deliverances, and thus "Return unto thy rest," etc.
7. From all the trials of the present life, return unto thy rest, O my soul, in the home which is preparing for thee above. Every step of the journey brings us nearer. Every care, every conflict, every grief helps us onward. There is rest yonder. Let us even now enjoy it by anticipation.
(Newman Hall, LL.B.)I. GOD IS THE REST OF THE SOUL.
1. As the light of the intellect.
2. As the refuge from the charges of our consciences.
3. As our chief good.
4. As our almighty protector.
5. As our great and ultimate end.
II. THE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH WE ARE MORE ESPECIALLY CALLED TO RETURN TO GOD OUR REST.
1. When we are too much affected by the cares of ordinary life.
2. When we are pressed with uneasy fears as to our spiritual safety.
3. When we have vainly perplexed ourselves with difficulties.
4. When we have experienced special deliverance.Having obtained from God pardon, a revival of piety, restoration from affliction, deliverance from temptation and sorrow; then we ought to summon the spirit to "cleave with purpose of heart to the Lord," and to rest more fully in Him, who is the strength of our heart, our portion, our exceeding great reward.
(R. Watson.)I. THE BELIEVER HAS HIS REST. While trying to think how I should describe it, nothing seemed to strike me as a more full and accurate description of the believer's rest than the apostolic benediction with which we are accustomed to dismiss our assemblies. If you have these three things, — the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, — I am sure I need not stay to prove to you that, in your experience, you have realized what it is to enjoy rest for your soul.
II. SOMETIMES THE BELIEVER LEAVES THAT REST.
1. Through affliction.
2. Through a want of submission to the Divine will.
3. Through want of contentment.
4. Through the world's joys.
5. Through allowing some conscious sin.
III. THE BELIEVER, WHEN HE HAS GONE AWAY FROM HIS REST, SHOULD RETURN TO IT; and the sooner he does so, the better. As Noah's dove came back to him, so fly back to Christ, who is your Noah, your rest, for that is the meaning of the name.
1. It is quite certain that you can never rest anywhere else.
2. This unrest puts you out of order for everything.
3. Your want of rest is putting you into a state in which you are very liable to be tempted and overcome.
4. This unrest can do no possible good.
IV. THE BELIEVER HAS ONE EXCELLENT ENCOURAGEMENT TO RETURN: "Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee." The psalmist tells us in detail what the Lord had done for him; or, rather, he tells the Lord. "Thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling." Now, believer, you ought to come back, and rest in God, because you hays received from Him these three marks of His Divine favour.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. This "rest" not bodily or physical, but mental or spiritual rest. When doubt and disbelief are gone, when the object of life is found in Christ, when God becomes the sure portion and sweetest joy of the heart, and the spirit within us, hitherto, it may be, groping bewildered amidst earthly hopes and pleasures, like one in the dark for the friendly hand, feels itself at last embraced in the sure grasp of strong and changeless love — then is the true rest of man, the stillness of the weary spirit in the everlasting arms. This is the only repose which is independent of outward circumstances. Even amidst the outer toil and distraction of the world, it is "the peace of God which keepeth the heart and mind." Nor does death, which disunites and disturbs all else, for a moment interrupt its continuity: for the rest of the soul in Christ is identical with the rest of heaven — "the rest which remaineth for the people of God."
2. It is the rest, not of immobility, but of equipoise. The rise of religion in the heart may be indicated by the bitter pangs of an awakened conscience, and by the painful struggle of spirit with sense, of the reviving element of moral freedom with the old and inveterate tyranny of sin in the soul. And it may only be by a long-protracted process of holy discipline that the soul attains at last to the complete mastery over self, the perfect inward harmony of a spirit in which every thought and feeling and desire are "brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." But when that glorious end is gained, then the "weary strife of frail humanity" is at an end, and a repose — oh how deep, how tranquil, how sublime! — diffuses itself throughout the spirit — a repose in which there is at once calmness and power, the sweet serenity of an infant's slumbers, yet the strength of an angel of God.
3. The true "rest" of the soul is that, not of inactivity, but of congenial exertion. As love to Christ deepens in the soul that is truly given to Him, the work which it prompts us to do for Him loses the feeling of effort, and passes into pleasure. Less and less of set purpose do we need to constrain the mind to think of Him, or to approach Him in the formal attitude of devotion. The idea of Christ in the holy mind becomes gradually blended with all the actions of its daily life; thought goes out to Him as by a divine instinct; an ever-acting attraction draws the heart upwards to its great and first object, and life becomes an unconscious yet continuous prayer. The transition from motive to act, from holy intention and design to holy doing, becomes less and less marked, until at last the will acquires an almost mechanical certainty, an almost unconscious smoothness and rapidity of action. And so, with the unfettered ease of one "who playeth well upon an instrument," from the many-stringed harp of life the soul renders up to God the sweet melody of holy deeds. Then indeed has it "returned into its rest."
(J. Caird, D.D.)
(W. L. Watkinson.)
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