And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.…
Are these words such as we should appropriate? Our sympathy with the prayer depends much upon our mood of mind and what are our own experiences. Those of the psalmist were such as made his prayer readily comprehensible and excusable. But it is not always so. Therefore, try the prayer —
I. BY THE MASTER'S SPIRIT. He never, though so sore beset, prayed such prayer.
II. BY THE RELATION WE SUSTAIN TO OTHERS. At almost any time, save in life's eventide, it would seem selfish. I know how beautiful it does appear at times, to talk of the quiet sleep. Presently we shall have done with weariness and weeping. The mill-wheel of duty will stop! We say to ourselves, as we think of death, When that comes, others will know what parents, lovers, brothers, we have tried to be! But immediately the last sleep loses its dream-like beauty when we turn round to think of these others, and of the relation we sustain to them; this no others can fill; none, with humility we think, could serve them so well. Heaven to us would mean not only the grief of absence for them, but the strain of endurance and the hard fight of life for others. It would cast upon them burdens they are ill able to bear, and our rest would be purchased at the cost of a too hard endeavour by those we love. Looked at by itself alone, the heaven-rest may at times be ardently longed for when work and worry go hand in hand — when routine is like a drill-sergeant — when the chariot of duty has to be pulled up-hill; but to the wise man, to the thoughtful woman, it is only a passing vision, and this prayer is unspoken because its fulfilment would be unkind to others.
III. BY THE PERMANENT TESTS OF EXPERIENCE. I mean the long experience of life as a whole. Has not that been a gracious experience, a long history of mercy? If there have been times of sorrow, there have been other and more times of joy, and then our prayer was, "O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days."
IV. BY THE LIGHT OF THAT AGE. Some critics think "there was no belief in immortality at all amongst the Hebrews." Then why were such words as these spoken? A mind and a heart like David's could never have wished to lie down in full forgetfulness, to claim eternal brotherhood with the valley clods. Rest? Annihilation is no rest. Such rest wants no wings — the dagger of a Brutus could give it in the briefest moment of time. These psalms would lose their richest beauty and glory if we simply had to read immortality into them. Their charm would be weakened, and their holiest inspiration gone. True, if we had to do with one such expression alone, we might feel it improbable that David referred to the great immortal rest. But it is not so! (Psalm 17:15). In reply to the cry, "O that I had wings!" we answer, You have! That is just what you have — wings! to fly up into the very heaven of God. This is the characteristic of the soul — that we can rise higher than mere intellectual argument — for what is denied to the calculating reason can be glimpsed by the despised imagination; for there are things of faith, whereby we rise to God.
V. BY THE SEASONS IN WHICH IT IS BEFITTING AND BEAUTIFUL, As in the "Nunc Dimittis" of the aged Simeon. What more natural than that he should now close his eyes in the last sleep? So there are seasons coming when the prayer will have a fitting charm for the soul. As we near the evening of life's busy day we may offer it with lips of wisdom, as well as with a heart longing after home.
(W. M. Statham.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.