And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.…
I. THE REST DESIRED. We do not know when David wrote this psalm, nor does it matter. He often longed to rid himself of present entanglements, only get away from such men as Job, only escape from the sea of cares in which he was plunged, he might be happy. We all know the fooling. We all know what it is to have such a dissatisfied feeling with our present circumstances. We may, then, I think, find it interesting and profitable to inquire what really is the rest which the soul craves.
1. There is the rest of reconciliation with God. We can never entirely forget our relation to God.
2. Deliverance from trouble. Trial, temptation, doubt — these are forms of trouble which extort this cry. The dying saint cries for this rest.
II. THE MEANS BY WHICH THIS REST WAS TO BE ATTAINED. "O that I had wings like a dove." This suggests —
1. The instinctive desire for home as the resting-place. Reference is made here, evidently, to the wonderful instinct of the carrier-pigeon. Hundreds of miles away it will with unerring instinct find its home, drawn as by an invisible cord. So the soul longs to return to God, its true home. In those better moments that sometimes come to men's hearts, you feel the desire to be reconciled to God, and thus obtain deliverance from the fear you entertain at the thought of meeting Him. You have felt like a child away from home, who fancies all would be well with him if he were again at home. The biographer of Michael Bruce tells us that, when he felt he was dying, "the young heart yearned for home — for a mother's hand, a mother's face, a mother's kiss, a mother's love" — so have you felt the desire for home, wondering, it may be, how to get back to God, and how to make your peace with Him, but conscious that your heart will not be at rest until you have the light of His countenance lifted up upon you; and your cry is, with the psalmist, "O that I had wings like a dove; for then would I fly away and be at rest." And if I speak to any who are restless and dissatisfied with the life of sin, and whose consciences are speaking to them of God their Father, I would say to them, Listen to the voice of conscience — return to God, and you will find your sins forgiven, your fears removed, the past forgotten, and the future radiant with hope. Come home, poor prodigal, come home.
2. The second idea suggested by this figure is the directness of the dove's flight home. When instinct has taught the bird where home lies, it makes straight for it — you cannot hinder its flight, or turn it aside. Instinct will not allow it to rest until it has returned to the dove-cote. Would that souls took such direct course in their way back to God. How wearily did Luther toil in his round of ceremonies before he found his true way to God.
3. The swiftness of the dove's flight home. Give the carrier-pigeon the wing, and not only does it make direct for home, but with an easy speed that distances the fastest train. Its eagerness to return gives speed to its flight, as, with unwearied wing, it pursues its homeward journey. So will it be with the soul that has not only been awakened, but has discovered the direct way to return. It will hasten to be at rest. The flight of the dove is, after all, slow compared with the act which takes the soul to God in Christ. Swift, indeed, is the flight of the dove. And what are the wings that bear the soul to its rest? We can understand how the dove wings its way homeward. We can understand how the wanderer returns home — but how does the soul get back to God? or, in other words, how does the soul become reconciled to God? It is by faith. Faith furnishes the wings, and thus the soul returns to God. Thus it is that the penitent soul may mount, in a moment, from the pit of ruin to the rest of home, and the prodigal may return home on the wings of faith with swifter motion than dove ever knew, and so for ever be at rest.
(James Jeffery, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.