Blessed is the man whose strength is in you; in whose heart are the ways of them.…
Rightly rendered, the first words of these verses are not a calm, prosaic statement, but an emotional exclamation. The psalmist's tone would be more truly represented if we read, "How blessed is the man," or "Oh! the blessednesses," for that is the literal rendering of the Hebrew words, "the blessedness of the man whose strength is Thee."
I. THE BLESSEDNESS OF THE PILGRIM-SPIRIT. "Amplius," the dying Xavier's word, "further afield," is the motto of all noble life — scientist, scholar, artist, man of letters, man of affairs: all come under the same law, that unless there is something before them which has dominated their hearts, and draws their whole being towards it, their lives want salt, want nobility, want freshness, and a green scum comes over the pool. To live is to aspire; to cease to aspire is to die. Well then, looking all round our horizon, there stands out one path for aspiration which is clearly blessed to tread. There are needs in all our hearts, deep longings, terrible wounds, dreary solitudes, which can only be appeased and healed and companioned when we are pressing nearer and nearer God, that Infinite and Divine Source of all blessedness, of all peace and good. To possess God is life; to feel after God is life, too. For that aim is sure, as we shall see, to be Satisfied.
II. THE BLESSEDNESS OF THE PILGRIM'S EXPERIENCE. "Passing through the valley of weeping they make it a place of springs, the rain also covereth it with blessings." .No doubt the poet is referring here to the actual facts of the pilgrimage to Zion. No doubt, on some one of the roads, there lay a gloomy gorge, the name of which was the Valley of Weeping; either because it dimly commemorated some half-forgotten tragedy long ago, or, more probably, because it was and and frowning and full of difficulty for the travellers on the march. The psalmist uses that name with a lofty imaginative freedom, which itself confirms the view that there is something deeper in the psalm than the mere external circumstances of the pilgrimages to the Holy City. If we have in our hearts, as our chief aim, the desire to get closer to God, then our sorrows and our tears will become sources of refreshment and fertility. Ah! How different all our troubles, large and little, look when we take as our great aim in life what is God's great purpose in giving us life, viz. that we should be moulded into His likeness and enriched by the possession of Himself. But that is not all. If, with the pilgrims' hearts, we rightly use our sorrows, we shall not be left to find refreshment and fertilizing power only in ourselves, but the benediction of the rain from heaven will come down, and the great Spirit of God will fall upon our hearts, not in a flood that drowns, but broken up into a beneficent mist that falls quietly upon us, and brings with itself the assurance of fertility. And so the secret of turning the desert into abundance, and tears into blessings, lies in having the pilgrim's heart.
III. THE BLESSEDNESS OF THE PILGRIM'S ADVANCE. "They go from strength to strength." I do not know whether the psalmist means to use that word "strength" in the significance which it also has in old English, of a fortified place, so that the metaphor would be that from one camp of security, one fortress, to another, they journey safe always, because of their protection; or whether he means to use it rather in its plain and simple sense, according to which the significance would be that these happy pilgrims do not get worn out on the journey, as is the wont of men that set out, for instance, from some far corner of India to Mecca; and come in battered and travel-stained, and half dead with their privations, but that the further they go the stronger they become; and on the road gain more vigour than they could ever have gained by ease and indulgence in their homes. But, whichever of these two meanings we may be disposed to adopt, the great thought that comes out of both of them is identical — viz, that this is one of the distinguishing Joys of a Christian career of pressing forward to closer communion and conformity with our Lord and Master, in whom God is manifested — viz, that we grow day by day in strength, and that effort does not weaken, but invigorates.
IV. THE BLESSEDNESS OF THE PILGRIM'S ARRIVAL. "Every one of them in Zion appeareth before God." Then there is one road on which whosoever travels is sure to get to his goal. On all others caravans get lost, overwhelmed in a sandstorm, or slain by robbers; and the bleached bones of men and camels lie there on the sand for centuries. This caravan always gets there. For no man ever wanted God that did not possess Him, and the measure of our desire is the prophecy of our possession.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them.