"This is the resting place, let the weary rest; and this
is the place of repose"—
"Lord, you have been our dwelling place (our home)
throughout all generations." Psalm 90:1
A glorious palm-shade with its evergreen fronds—a noble
key-note to a noble song, the oldest in the Psalter, whose authorship
invests it with an interest all its own, for it bears as its inscription, "A
prayer of Moses the Man of God." The entire psalm was evidently written by
the great leader and lawgiver, not certainly when the Israelites were
encamped in safety and peace at Elim, under nature's verdant awning, with
the twelve springs at their side (a desert oasis). Rather does it breathe
the plaintive tones of a dirge or lament, composed after some appalling
judgment toward the close of the wanderings—"days and years wherein they had
seen evil" (ver. 15), when death had caused sudden havoc through the tents;
compared to the rush of a resistless torrent (ver. 5), or the blighting and
withering of the grass at sundown prostrate under the mower's scythe (Num.
14:5, 6). In the lesson thus read on human frailty and mortality, seeing
perhaps, both prospectively and retrospectively, the wilderness strewn with
the blanched bones of the Pilgrim host, the writer turns from the mutable
to the Immutable—from the finite to the Infinite—from the
desert's shifting sands to the stable Everlasting Rock—from man to
God—"Lord, YOU have been our dwelling-place in all generations!"
Beautiful and significant is the figure employed—all the
more impressive, by reason of very contrast, must it have been to the
Hebrews, first after their long enslaved, and now entering their nomad,
life. The permanent dwelling was to them not even a memory. If
entertained at all, it could only be the dream and aspiration of some ideal
future. It was the psalm of a homeless, expatriated race, who "wandered in
desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle."
Most of us know what HOME is. There is music in the name
which no words can describe. It is not locality or scenery which makes home.
A prison is not a home—a castle or palace with gilded
ceilings, if there be no living, loving voices, is not home. Home is
wherever the affections gather round treasured objects. It is the center
of love; the spot where the spirit, worn and jaded with life's bustle,
harassed with its anxieties and disappointments, delights to fold its weary
wing—that blessed refuge where cherished tones chase sorrow from the heart,
and tender hands smooth the wrinkles which care has been ploughing on the
The believer has his Home too, the majestic sanctuary of
Infinite love. And there is no true dwelling-place or resting-place for the
immortal soul but this. Yes! surrounded though we be with lavish profusion
of material comforts and blessings, still there is in every heart a
restless, unsatisfied craving after a higher good. No finite portion can
adequately meet these infinite longings. The homeless child strayed from his
father's house—weeping for its lost residence—is a picture of the soul
astray from its home and happiness in the all-glorious God.
But once we can take up the sublime utterance of the
leader of the Hebrews, "Lord, You have been our dwelling-place," then what a
home is ours, with its perfect repose and everlasting inviolable security!
Not the desert tent, not the temporary shade and shelter and refreshment of
the Elim palm-grove and its springs, but the chief Divine reality which
these earthly images foreshadowed. In that enduring mansion all fears are
lulled to rest, all misgivings dispelled.
It is a garrisoned home with many rooms in it; each room
an attribute of the Eternal. For "the name of the Lord is a strong
tower, the righteous runs into it, and is safe" (Prov. 18:10). And though
thousands upon thousands have rushed, in bypast ages, to these magnificent
chambers, still there is room. Age cannot impair their safety, time cannot
crumble down their walls. It is delightful to think of the many, since the
hour when Moses penned it, who have already sung this glorious anthem. The
captive in his dungeon, the martyr at the stake, the orphan
in his loneliness, the widow in her agony, the sick one on his
couch, the dying one in his last moments. Yes, and those, too, out
amid the battle of life, the daily fever and turmoil of existence, the fret
and friction of busy tempted hours—such heroes of God, as they breast "the
loud stunning tide," include it among the cherished "melodies of the
As in the case of Pilgrim Israel, we have ever and anon
imparted to us, in touching impressiveness, the same world-wide lesson—that
we can make no home or refuge of any creature or created good. "They shall
perish" is written on the best of earthly palm-trees. It is engraved on many
a tombstone—carved on the shattered lintels of many a broken heart.
Home!—with not a few it is a ruin, the wreck and debris of a hallowed past,
the grave of fond hopes and departed joys and blighted affections.
Some who trace these lines may be able thus to sing this oldest strain of
the Psalter only through their tears.
God may have been proclaiming to you, through severe and
varied discipline, that earth is not your home, that you are but sojourners
here, that your dwellings are not freehold but leasehold. He would lead you
not to mistake the shelter of the wayfarer for the permanent abiding
Mansion; the perishable refuge for the magnificent clefts of the Rock of
Ages. He would lead you, as "strangers on earth," to have your "citizenship
in heaven." These trials may be only the tones of His own tender voice,
issuing the invitation—"Go, My people, enter your rooms and shut the doors
behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until His wrath has passed
by" (Isaiah 26:20). He may be putting a thorn in your earthly nest and
earthly home, to drive you to the wing and teach you to warble as you soar
up to heaven's gate—"Lord, amid the frailty and failing of all created
things, I turn to the One only unfailing, unvarying, unchanging portion! My
dwelling place shall henceforth be in You. My flesh and my heart fails, but
You are the strength of my heart and my portion forever!"
In such a Home, when fully realized and tested as no
phantasm and shadow—but a sublime truth, who cannot enjoy, even with regard
to earthly things, the feeling of satisfaction and of safety? "You will keep
him in perfect peace (lit. 'peace, peace') whose mind is stayed on You,
because he trusts in You." The child dreads no danger so long as the strong
encompassing arm of his father is around him. The winter storm may revel at
will outside, but in the paternal dwelling he is safe. There is a special
promise given to all who thus confidingly resort to the Everlasting God as
their home and portion. "Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge,
even the Most High, your habitation; there shall no evil (no real evil)
befall you" (Ps. 91:9, 10). In the most adverse circumstances He will prove
to His people their protector; so that, in the words put into the lips of
Ezekiel, "They shall dwell safely in the wilderness and sleep in the
woods" (Ezek. 34:25), in the unlikeliest places and seasons they may
feel sweetly secure. It is in Himself that His own promise has its
most glorious fulfillment—"Your people will live in peaceful dwelling
places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest" (Isa. 32:18).
Nor can we omit a closing reference to the last clause of
our motto-verse—"in all generations." A noble thought—Jehovah the unchanging
dwelling-place of His Church and His people in every age! Even Moses, who
had not the long centuries of holy tradition and divine and saintly memory
we enjoy, loved to repose on the thought of God, not only as "the God of his
fathers," but as the God of all the years, as well as of all the families of
earth. Perhaps he penned the psalm some night in the desert—night with its
darkness, as in the shadow of the Almighty's wings. He may have delighted to
think that the same silent stars which kept vigil over the tents of Mamre,
Shechem, and Bethel in the generations of old, were stooping that hour over
the sleeping earth.
But more comforting still the reflection, that He who
lighted up these altar-fires in the great nightly temple, was ever living
and loving; the unchanging sanctuary of His people from age to age. The
generations had passed away and perished—He was still, and ever would be,
the same. Let ours be the prayer, "Be my rock of refuge, to which I can
And, as in the picture of a blessed earthly home, there
must be harmony of will and congeniality of taste and feeling
among the occupants, let it be our constant and lofty aspiration that our
human wills may gradually be made to agree with the Divine, our hearts
filled with love to Him, and love for all on whom His own boundless love is
lavished. Having this as the master passion—the dominant principle in our
regenerated nature, the motive principle of our spiritual life, we shall
know that as children we are within the dwelling-place of our Father, "For
he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him."
"Let the beauty of the Lord," is the closing prayer of
the psalm, "be upon us:" or as that is rendered in the Targum, "Let the
sweetness of the garden of Eden be upon us;" that beauty and sweetness which
is better than shade of palm-tree, or breath of flower, or music of
fountain—the habitual realization of God's gracious favor and paternal
guardianship—"They shall rest in His love" (Zeph. 3:17).
"Plan not, nor scheme, but calmly wait,
His choice is best.
While blind and erring is thy sight;
His wisdom sees and judges right,
So trust and rest.
"Strive not, nor struggle; thy poor might
Can never wrest
The meanest thing to serve thy will.
All power is His alone: Be still,
And trust and rest."
"What dost thou fear? His wisdom reigns
His power is infinite; His love
Thy deepest, Fondest dreams above,
So trust and rest."
"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest
in the shadow of the Almighty."