And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.…
Oh that I had wings like a dove! David was not the first nor the last to utter this cry. Men in all ages have suffered. Everywhere we find the game unconquerable desire for rest. This longing underlies all religions and philosophies. And there are times when the cry rises instinctively, and presses for an answer. Who is there who has not, in sorrow or in pain bodily and mentally, or when sick and weary and overborne by earthly troubles, been moved to cry, Oh for rest! And yet the wish may be vain. We need to examine and try ourselves. There is a wrong as well as a right way of seeking rest.
I. IT IS VAIN TO HOPE FOR REST BY SEEKING THE IMPOSSIBLE. Man was made "but a little lower than the angels;" and yet, though all things are said to have been put under him, there are points in which the "beasts of the field and the fowls of the air" have the advantage of him. Hence they may become objects of envy. We are limited beings; but we can conceive ourselves endowed with powers beyond what we possess. There is danger in such fancies. The dove flies past, and all seems peace. But this may be a delusion. We know not what fate awaits it. Besides, we cheat ourselves with a silly thought. We know we have not, and cannot have, "wings." Wishing for the impossible only leaves us the more weak and discontented. Better face difficulty manfully. Better do what God has made us capable of doing, if we are willing, than waste time and strength in idle fancies of what cannot be. The doubter wants a "sign." The anxious sinner craves some sensible proof of acceptance. The troubled mind, tossed to and fro amidst the endless strife of controversy, longs for some infallible guide. There is what Wordsworth calls, "the universal instinct of repose - the longing for confirmed tranquillity." But this is not God's way. "Every man shall bear his own burden" (Galatians 6:5).
III. IT IS VAIN TO HOPE FOR REST BY MERE CHANGE OF OUTWARD CONDITIONS. Place has much to do with feeling. What is near seems more real than what is far off. What we see touches us more keenly than what we only hear of from others (Lamentations 3:15). So with respect to "rest." We are prone to blame circumstances. We delude ourselves with the thought that, if things were altered, all would be well The "imagined otherwise" is the heaven of many. So it is with many of the sick, the poor, the oppressed, the discontented. Absalom played cunningly upon this feeling (2 Samuel 15:4). But "rest" is a state of the mind. It does not come from without, but from within. It is not won by change of condition, but by change of heart. So Paul learned (Philippians 4:11).
III. IT IS VAIN TO HOPE FOR REST BY FLIGHT FROM THE IMMEDIATE CAUSES OF DISTRESS. There are times when flight may be expedient (Matthew 10:23; 2 Timothy 2:22). Again, there are times when flight would be a sin (Nehemiah 6:11; 2 Timothy 4:10). Besides, flight may be a vain resource (Amos 5:19). The question is - What is our duty? Then, when we have settled that, like Paul, we should stand firm (Acts 20:24). There are people who would quiet conscience by silencing the preacher, like Herod; or get rid of an unpleasant duty by flying, like Jonah; or hasten their escape from trouble, like David. But this will not avail. It is better to stand than to fly; to do our duty humbly and quietly in the place where God calls us, than to seek an easier lot. Elijah was a nobler figure confronting singly the hosts of Baal, than hiding in the desert. Peter and Paul and Stephen were truer men, and did a grander work by not holding their lives dear, than if they had cared more for themselves than for Christ. The true way of rest is the way of self-sacrifice. It is when we surrender ourselves wholly to Christ, to be his and his only, and to love and do his will for evermore, that we enter into rest (Matthew 11:28-30). The psalmist in his better moments felt this. If his first impulse was "to flee away," when he came to himself he turned to the Lord as his sure Refuge (ver. 9). And what he learned for himself he commends with confidence to others: "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee" (ver. 22). - W.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.