True Religion Both Spiritual and Practical
Francis Bourdillon, 1881
"I will ponder the way that is blameless. Oh when will you come to me? I will walk with integrity of heart within my house." Psalm 101:2
This is one of the psalms of David, expressing his feelings, wishes, and purposes, when advanced to the throne of Israel. In this second verse of the psalm, we see two things about David's religion:
first, that it was spiritual
secondly, that it was practical.
It was spiritual. "Oh when will You come to me?" he cries. These words express a longing desire for God's presence, and they are all the more striking from being introduced in the midst of another subject. He is declaring his determination to behave himself wisely, when this earnest wish breaks forth, "Oh when will You come to me?"
It is the sure mark of a spiritual mind — to desire and delight in the presence of God. To hold communion with Him in secret, to lift up the heart to Him, and to feel Him near; to place a happy confidence in Him as no stranger, but a friend and Father — this is the delight and the desire of the child of God. Nor is this a happiness which is beyond his reach. It is the privilege of the Christian to enjoy the presence of God. Christ has brought him near. He is the living Way. By Him, the humble believer can approach the throne of grace and seek God's presence in faith, and enjoy the fulfillment of the promise, "My Father will love him — and We will come to him and make Our home with him."
Yet there are changes in our frames and feelings. We do not always enjoy this blessing alike at all times. Though God's presence itself may not be removed from us — yet the conscious sense of God's presence often is absent. We are not always bright — we have our dark days too. The words of David, "Oh when will You come to me?" seem to show that he was not at that time in the enjoyment of the conscious presence of God. Rather, they seem to express a temporary lack of comfort. But they are words, not of despondency, but of ardent desire. It is the voice of one who has had the sense of God's conscious presence in times past, and most earnestly seeks it again. The withholding of the blessing, does but increase his desire for it: "Oh when will You come to me?"
Perhaps spiritual comfort is sometimes withheld by God on purpose, to quicken our desires and prayers — for we often value a blessing the more from its being withdrawn. Perhaps it is part of God's gracious dealing with us for our good, to hide from us at times the light of His countenance, that we may cry to Him more earnestly, "Oh when will You come to me?"
Let none give way to despondency when the sense of God's nearness seems gone and the brightness of His presence is dimmed; let none think that God has changed — -that He has forgotten to be gracious — that He will visit and bless no more. Rather, let more ardent desires be called forth, and let the cry go up more earnestly, "Oh when will You come to me!" Pray without ceasing. Pray in faith. Wait on the Lord. He gave the desire — and He will not leave it unsatisfied.
But though it may sometimes please God in His sovereign wisdom thus to deprive us of spiritual comfort — yet there may be a reason in ourselves — some lack of watchfulness, some carelessness of walk or neglect of means. David seems to have had this in his mind when he said, "I will ponder the way that is blameless [behave myself in a wise and perfect way] ... I will walk with integrity of heart [with a perfect heart] within my house." It is not without reason that we find this resolution joined to his desire for God's presence. Knowing that any indulgence in what was wrong would come between him and God, he joined to his prayer this earnest resolve: "I will ponder the way that is blameless [behave myself wisely in a perfect way] ... I will walk with integrity of heart [with a perfect heart] within my house."
The word "perfect" here, as elsewhere, means sincere and upright. The meaning is that he would be guilty of no double dealing with God. He would not beg God to come to him — and yet in life and practice depart from God. He would at least be honest and true — he would allow himself in no known sin.
He would behave himself wisely. He would not lead a thoughtless, careless life, spending his time in idle folly — he would be serious and in earnest. Such should be his walk and behavior — that is, his habitual line of conduct. He would strive to be a true, humble, consistent servant of God.
He makes especial mention of his house. He was placed by God in a higher position than most men; for he was a king, the head of a great household, and with almost absolute authority over his kingdom. He would try to use this vast influence aright. In his own personal conduct he would set an example to all around him. In the ordering of his household, he would seek to follow God's holy will. Such was his determination.
Thus his religion was practical as well as spiritual. All true religion is so. We cannot have God's presence — unless we walk uprightly. Any sin against conscience, any giving way to worldly customs which we know to be contrary to the word of God, any allowed indulgence of pride or vanity or evil desires — cannot fail to deprive us of the comfort of God's presence. He will not dwell with sin.
In our inward feelings and in our outward conduct,
in private and in public,
in our personal behavior and in our fellowship with others,
in thought and word and deed —
we must be upright and sincere, if we would enjoy the presence of God.
We might indeed be all this, and yet not have His presence because not seeking it by faith in Jesus Christ. And though sincerity and uprightness alone could not bring us the blessing — the lack of them will certainly deprive us of it.
God will help all who earnestly desire to have Him as their portion through Christ Jesus, and set themselves to do His will. He will give them His presence, and keep them by His grace. There is every comfort for such in His word. Let none bear about the load of unforgiven sin — while the blood of sprinkling is open to them. Let none be content to live without the happiness of God's presence — when they are encouraged by God Himself to seek it.
Yet let not even the sincere and earnest disciple of Christ expects all to be smooth. Here we must have labor and conflict — for this present world is not our rest. But this he may confidently believe:
that through light and darkness, God is with him, while he cleaves to Christ and walks closely with God;
that a strength not his own is given to him in all his weakness, and will be given even to the end;
that God's mercy, favor, and love will never be withdrawn; that infinite love and wisdom will allow him just so much of the sense of God's presence as is best for his soul;
and that the time is not far off, when he and every true believer will enjoy the presence of God perfectly and forever!