The Lord Our Portion!Francis Bourdillon, 1864
"The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup. You maintain my lot. The lines have fallen unto me in pleasant places — yes, I have a goodly heritage. I will bless the Lord, who has given me counsel; my heart also instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord always before me — because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved!"
The Psalmist was very happy in his mind when he wrote this Psalm: "The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places — yes, I have a goodly heritage." What made him happy? The presence and blessing of God. Most likely at this very time he was in some danger or trouble outwardly, for he begins the Psalm with a prayer for preservation: "Preserve me, O God — for in You have I put my trust." Some think that it was when he was living with the Philistines through fear of Saul. If so, there was indeed much to trouble him. Yet he says, "The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places."
The truth is that David's happiness was not drawn from outward things, but from God. He says, "The Lord is the portion of my inheritance, and of my cup. You maintain my lot." This was David's happiness, and this is the only true happiness for us all and the only happiness that will last. We never know real happiness or peace — until we seek them in God.
He does not say merely that God gave him a portion — but that God was his portion. Not only does God make those who trust in Him both safe and happy — but their safety and happiness are in Him; He Himself is their portion. So that if it were possible that He should bestow on them all manner of gifts, and yet withhold or withdraw Himself — they would then be in want; they would have no portion:
"Give what You will — without You we are poor;
And with You rich — take what You will away."
"The Lord," he says, "is the portion of my inheritance, and of my cup." Now these two words, "inheritance" and "cup," seem to have a different meaning. An inheritance means an estate or some other valuable possession that is ours by law because we are heirs to it. It maintains us; we live by it; it forms the provision for our needs. In this sense God is the portion of our inheritance. He has made us His children by adoption and grace, "and if children — then heirs." He has given us Himself as our portion; and in Him we have a sure provision for soul and body. Having Him, we have all — perfect safety and a full supply.
The word "cup" seems to point more to the pleasures of true religion. "The Lord is the portion of my inheritance, and of my cup." The Lord not only gives me in Himself the full supply of my needs; He also gives me pleasure, joy, happiness. "My cup runs over," says David in another Psalm — that is, my cup of happiness. God would have every true and humble Christian find happiness in Him. Not the vain joy of the world — but true joy, joy in the Holy Spirit, joy in believing.
He Himself is the giver, the author, the object of this joy — God reconciled in Christ Jesus; God known and trusted; God ever near; God loving us and loved by us. "Rejoice in the Lord always," said the apostle, "and again I say rejoice."
This portion is a satisfying portion. At least it ought to be. And indeed it is — in proportion as it is enjoyed. As a grown-up person no longer cares for toys — so a spiritually-minded person does not care for the things of the world, as he used to care for them. The world's pleasures are but toys to him — he has found something better. The Lord is his portion. That is enough. He wants no more.
All that comes to him, he takes as part of his portion, because it is from the hand of God. Be it much or little, be it what he would have chosen or not — it is what God sends, his allotted portion. So he is content — content and thankful and happy; for with all that He gives, God does not withhold Himself, the sense of His favor and blessing, the humble yet firm persuasion of His pardoning mercy, His love and grace in Christ Jesus. What portion can the world give like this?
And it is a sure portion too. An earthly inheritance, however safe it may seem, may be lost. Earthly joy may quickly be turned into sorrow. Everything earthly may be changed or lost. But the Christian's portion is a sure one — for God is his portion — and God never changes. As if to assure himself of this, the Psalmist adds, "You maintain my lot."
It is very needful to bear this in mind: "You maintain my lot"; else the first check that we receive — any disappointment or loss of comfort, friends forsaking, circumstances changing, anything happening to make our outward life less bright or our spirits less high — might lead us to think our portion lost. But it is not lost. God maintains it, and maintains it through all changes.
God was maintaining Job's lot all through his sore afflictions, and David's in all his many trials; and God will maintain ours, if we cleave to Him as the Rock of our salvation. There is the greatest comfort in these words, "You maintain my lot."
He who could feel thus, had not reached this point all at once. He had received many gracious warnings, and many a time had he searched his own heart and sought God's guidance and grace. No doubt he had passed through some painful seasons — times of inward conflict, times of disappointed hope, times when God caused him to be humbled under a sense of his sins. "I will bless the Lord," he says, "who has given me counsel" — or, as it is in another version, "I will thank the Lord for giving me warning." God's warnings are not the least of His mercies. They come in various shapes — a text, a sermon, a sorrow, a sickness. It is well when we can see by faith, the wisdom and the love that send them, and the profit which they bring, and thus say, "I will bless the Lord, who has given me counsel."
Many a night had David spent in self-examination and prayer: "My heart also instructs me in the night seasons."
"My heart," that is, his thoughts. Often, in the still hour, when all but he were sleeping, often had he thus thought and prayed. Our souls cannot thrive without much of this private, secret work. We should often be searching and trying our ways, and then turning again to the Lord.
And what time better than a sleepless night? And what better place than a sick-bed? Sickness and lack of sleep are not good in themselves — but they may be turned to good if we use them thus. And doubtless God often sends them for this very purpose. The mind is often unusually lively and active at night, when one cannot sleep. Many thoughts come to us then. They should be . . .
thoughts of the soul,
thoughts of eternity,
thoughts of God,
thoughts of Jesus, and
thus wholesome, profitable, peaceful thoughts.
"I have set the Lord always before me." He always remembered God, realized His presence and sought His help, and never did anything without Him. This had long been his habit, and this had given him a happy confidence in God.
So he could say, "Because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved." At his right hand, near him, quite close to him — to guide and help and strengthen him. Therefore, "I shall not be moved." There were many things to make him afraid, but he would not be afraid because the Lord was at his right hand.
This was his prayer: "Preserve me, O God, for in You do I put my trust." This was his practice and his confidence: "I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved."
The lines had indeed fallen unto him in pleasant places — he had a goodly heritage. The Lord was his portion, the portion of his inheritance and of his cup, his salvation, and his joy. He was full of thankfulness and trust. He could thank God even for His warnings and chastisements — for he saw how good they were. He looked back to many secret thoughts, many searchings of heart, many earnest prayers — and traced the blessing that had thus come to his soul. He kept up the same habit still, and found both profit and comfort in it — and he felt sure that God would never forsake him. He in whom he trusted, would maintain his lot and would not let him be moved. For time and for eternity, he was full of hope, comfort, trust, and joy. The Lord was his portion.
Why is this written, but to encourage us to seek the same things which David sought? They may be ours:
the joyful feeling,
and the sure trust.
God invites us to seek Him as our portion. He calls us away from sin and the world — and bids us seek our all in Him.
All blessings are offered to us freely in Christ Jesus. David spoke by prophecy of Christ. But we live in gospel times — we have learned of Him as our Savior, who died for us and rose for us and lives for us. David himself did not have such clear light as we have in the gospel. All blessings may be ours in Christ. And all are free — a free pardon, a free salvation, free grace — free to all who will seek them — "without money and without price!"