And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.
These words prove the essential identity of human nature seen with human nature thousands of years since. They are very ancient, but their spirit is perfectly modern. The first of modern essayists has said that the great characteristic of modern life is worry; but it should seem from the text that it was the great characteristic of ancient life too; for if there ever was such a thing in this world, here we have the utterance of a thoroughly worried man. And see what he says. From the midst of countless cares, fears, and griefs, he wearily looks up; he plainly sees that where he is, the day will never come in which cares, griefs, and fears will not still surround him; and so he bursts out into a vague, hopeless, yet passionate cry — he cannot dearly say for what — but only that he might get away to some place — he does not know where — in which these should be done with for ever! I spoke of the essentially modern tone of that fancy as proving how like we are now to what King David was centuries ago — as proving that man is always essentially the same. Do you not remember that when the greatest living poet wishes to set before us a human being of this age, restlessly dissatisfied and disappointed, he puts upon his lips words which look almost like this vague aspiration of the psalmist? He represents him, too, as confusedly wishing that he could get anywhere away from where he was; that he could burst all links of civilized habit and leave all traces of civilized man behind him. And no doubt we can all at times sympathize with the fancy; for it is certain fact that the many advantages of civilization are to be obtained only at .the price of countless and ceaseless worry. No doubt we must all sometimes sigh for the woods and the wigwam; but the feeling is as vain as that of the psalmist's aspiration in the text. But it is just this thing which makes the aspiration in the text one so practically profit. able for us to think of; it is just because in its vagueness, its unreasonableness, its endlessness, it is so accurate a type of the endlessness and the vagueness of human aspirations. Oh, give the psalmist the swift wings; and whither could he fly? Give him all the universe to choose from; and where would he find the place where he could be at rest? Give men all this world could yield them; tell men that for the naming it, they shall have every wish gratified to the utmost, that begins and ends on this world and this life; and they will be as far from rest for their weary souls as ever. And, thank God, we know the reason why. It is because "this is not our rest." It was because God had unalterably fixed and appointed, that worldly things alone can never make the soul of man permanently happy. You think to make yourself content and happy without the good part in Christ, and the reconciled love of God in Him; you cannot, it is impossible. God says No to that; it cannot be done. If you think and try to find real rest for your soul away from God in Christ; if you think to be really happy away from Christ, you are thinking and trying to do what, by the make of your being, is impossible. You might as well think to quench the thirst of the parched throat with sand, as to satisfy man's thirst for happiness with anything merely worldly. You are on the wrong course altogether when you try to do that. Now, it would be our salvation could we only feel and realize the fact that this world is not our rest; that rest and peace are only in God as seen in Christ. The wings and the wilderness would not have made the psalmist happy; and no imaginable worldly blessings will ever suffice to make us so. The only real rest that the soul of man can ever know, is that which is given by Him who said, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." And not even that rest, given by the Redeemer to His own, is perfect in this present life; the best believer's heart will be many a time disquieted and perplexed, so long as he abides here. "There remaineth a rest for the people of God." It remaineth; it is waiting for them, far away. This is not our rest; our rest is beyond the grave.
(A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.