Psalm 120:5
Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech! These names Mesech and Kedar are not to be regarded as literally descriptive. They poetically represent the very trying circumstances and associations in which at the lime the psalmist was placed. The Mesech are only known as a half-barbarous people living towards the north, on the mountains south of Caucasus (Ezekiel 38:9, 15, 16). Kedar is a term representing the warrior-tribes of Arabia far to the south-east (Genesis 25:13; Isaiah 21:17; Ezekiel 27:21). There can be little question that the names are here used typically, because it was not wise to fix in a poem or psalm the actual names of the uncomfortable neighbors.

I. WE CANNOT HELP HAVING UNCOMFORTABLE SURROUNDINGS. It is only in a very small sense that a man can be said to choose his own lot. He cannot choose his parents, brothers and sisters, early home, schooling, and many other things. We speak of his making his way in life, but Providence is always overruling things, and putting men in unexpected places. Most men have to say, in looking back over life, "I never could have dreamed of being where I have been, or of doing what I have done." Our culture largely comes through our life-associations, and we cannot help their sometimes being not at all "according to our mind."

II. WE CANNOT HELP FEELING OUR UNCOMFORTABLE SURROUNDINGS. It is indeed essential to discipline through them that we should feel them. The misery of trying, unlovely, mischievous neighbors is but like the pain of the surgeon who would heal. God wants us to feel, because he wants to use the feeling. Indeed, keenness to feel may help him to do his gracious work.

III. WE CAN HELP BEING MASTERED BY UNCOMFORTABLE SURROUNDINGS. They cannot hurt us unless we allow them to. If feeling is allowed to rule the will, they are sure to master us. If the will be made to rule feeling, they cannot. Just what God's grace does for us is so to strengthen the will that nothing can unduly or unworthily influence us.

IV. WE CAN WIN THE TRIUMPH OF THE GODLY LIFE EVEN AMIDST UNCOMFORTABLE SURROUNDINGS. We can, on the principle of the psalmist, who, out of his distress, persisted in "looking up," crying unto God for help, singing "songs of ascent." - R.T.







Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mosech.
Mesech was the son of Japheth, from whom were descended the men who inhabited that most barbarous of all regions, according to the opinion of the ancients, the northern parts of Muscovy or Moscow, and Russia. The inhabitants of the tents of Kedar were the descendants of one of the sons of Abraham, who had taken to nomadic habits, and were continually wandering about over the deserts; and were, besides, thought, and doubtless were, guilty of plundering travellers, and were by no means the most respectable of mankind. We are to understand, then, by this verse, that the people among whom the psalmist dwelt were, in his esteem, among the most barbarous, the most fierce, the most graceless of men. This has been the cry of the children of God in all ages. You have longed to be far away from this dusky world, so full of sin, and traps, and pitfalls, and everything that makes us stumble in our path, and of nothing that can help us onward towards heaven.

I. First, then, A WORD OR TWO IN JUSTIFICATION OF THE PSALMIST'S COMPLAINT. I will not say that it is thoroughly commendable, in a Christian man, to long to be away from the place where God's providence has put him. But I will say, and must say, that it is not only excusable, but scarcely needs an apology.

1. Think how the wicked world slanders the Christian. There is no falsehood too base for men to utter against the follower of Jesus.

2. Besides, the Christian is conscious that evil companionship is damaging to him. If he is not burnt, he is at least blackened by contact with the ungodly.

3. The continual process of temptation which surrounds the Christian who is situated in the midst of men of unclean lips.

II. Having thus spoken a word of justification for the psalmist's complaint, I am going, next, TO JUSTIFY THE WAYS OF GOD WITH US, IN HAVING SUBJECTED US TO THIS DWELLING IN THE TENTS OF KEDAR.

1. It is right and just, and good that God has spared us to be here a little longer; for, in the first place, my brothers and sisters, has not God put us here to dwell in the tents of Kedar, because these, though perilous places, are advantageous posts for service? That was a noble speech of our old English king, at Agincourt, when he was surrounded by multitudes of enemies, "Well, be it so. I would not lose so great an honour, or divide my triumph. I would not," said he, "have one man the fewer among my enemies, because then there would be a less glorious victory." So, in like manner, let us take heart even from our difficulties. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge; Jehovah-Nisei is inscribed on our banner.

2. You never will wish, I am sure, to get away from the tents of Kedar if you will recollect that it was through another Christian tarrying here, — when, perhaps, he wanted to be gone , — that you are this day a Christian. If you were to go to heaven now, perhaps you would go almost alone; but you must stop till there is a companion to go with you.

3. Perhaps our Master keeps us in the tents of Kedar because it will make heaven all the sweeter.

III. A WORD OF COMFORT TO THE CHRISTIAN WHILE PLACED IN THESE APPARENTLY EVIL CIRCUMSTANCES. Well, there is one word in the text that ought to console him in a case like this. "Woe is me, that I sojourn" — thank God for that word "sojourn." Yes, I do not live here for ever; I am only a stranger and a sojourner here, as all my fathers were; and though the next sentence does say, "I dwell," yet, thank God, it is a tent I dwell in, and that will come down by and by: "I dwell in the tents of Kedar." Ye men of this world, ye may have your day, but your day will soon be over; and I will have my nights, but my nights will soon be over, too. It is not for long, Christian, it is not for long. The end will make amends for all that thou endurest, and thou wilt thank God that He kept thee, and blessed thee, and enabled thee to suffer and endure, and at last brought thee safely home. This, however, is not all the comfort I have for you, because that would look like something at the end, like the child who has the promise of something while it is taking its medicine. No, there is something to comfort you during your trials. Remember that, oven while you are in the tents of Kedar, you have blessed company, for God is with you; and though you sojourn with the sons of Mesech, yet there is Another with whom you sojourn, namely, your blessed Lord and Master. Brethren, ye may be comforted yet again with this sweet thought, — that not only is God with you, but your Master was once in the tents of Kedar; not merely spiritually, but personally, even as you are; and inasmuch as you are here too, this, instead of being painful, should be comforting go you. Have you not received a promise that you shall be like your Head? Thank God that promise has begun to be fulfilled. What more can you want? Is not this a sufficient honour, that the servant is as his Master, and the subject is as his Sovereign?

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

The disposition of which such words as these are the indication is familiar to all of us. We continually observe it. We at least occasionally experience it. It is the disposition to regard ourselves as unfortunate in our circumstances or surroundings, and to fasten upon them the responsibility of our own indolence or failure.

I. AIMLESSNESS IS THE MOTHER OF MURMUR. Take all the men you know who are always complaining of everything and every one, and I think you will find that they are persons who have no perceptible object in life, and of whose continued appearance upon the stage of this world you can give no account; except that it is not the will of Providence that they should die, and that it is not their own will that they should commit suicide.

II. THERE IS SUCH A THING AS SPIRITUAL AIMLESSNESS, and it is precisely the same in kind as that with which we are all familiar. It is of this that I am about to speak. It, too, is the parent of murmuring. From it springs dissatisfaction with our circumstances, impatience of our position, weariness of our enforced employments, and a general state of feeling leading up to such an exclamation as that of the text.

III. WHAT, THEN, DO I MEAN BY SPIRITUAL AIMLESSNESS? To make this clear we must understand what is spiritual aim. There are a great many kinds of aim connected with, and even tending towards, religious objects, and yet you may have any or all of them distinctly before you, and be all the while spiritually aimless. There is aim in the conversion of the heathen, the correction of religious error, the building of churches, the government of the Church in general, the improvement of ritual or of worship in some church in particular, the teaching of the young, the visiting of the sick, the comforting of the afflicted. But there is one from which all these ought to spring — one in which they ought all to centre — one to which they ought all to be subservient. That one is the salvation of your own soul. We all need to keep before our minds "the end (aim) of our faith even the salvation of our souls." That faith is "the substance of things hoped for: the evidence of things not seen." That faith includes — nay, that faith is a belief that "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose" — that from His love neither tribulation, nor distress, nor persecution, nor famine, nor nakedness, nor peril, nor sword shall separate us, that, "in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us." And so, in proportion to the reality and constancy of that faith, will be our power to repress each rising murmur, of which I have taken the text as an example.

IV. AT THE VERY BEST SUCH A MURMUR IS THE EXPRESSION OF A REGRET THAT WE CANNOT DO MORE FOR GOD. And so its obvious corrective is the deepening of our conviction that even so He may be — nay, He certainly is — if we really "love Him above all things," doing more for us than if He "gave us our desire and sent leanness withal into our soul." Perchance we are right in our belief that other positions, companionships, or employments would tend to the fuller development of that part of our constitution — intellectual, moral, or spiritual — to which we feel as towards some favoured child. But are we so sure that the course we should mark out for ourselves would tend to the forming of our characters "all round"? No. We do not believe in the love of God if we do not believe that He is doing what is best towards such a formation of us; which, after all, is conformity, as far as we can be conformed hero below, to the perfect character of Him whoso name we bear, whose life is our example, whose death is our hope.

(J. C. Coghlan, D. D.)

The language is metaphorical, for the same people could not be in opposite countries remote from each other, and the two races did not intimately mingle in any border land. The implacable people among or near whom the children of the captivity had to work and wait, whether degenerate countrymen, oppressive Chaldeans, or, more probably, malicious Samaritans, were no better than the fathers of the Muscovites or the offspring of Hagar. In the same way we speak of the Goths whom we encounter, Arabs in our streets, and heathens in Christendom. The psalm, passing from figure to fact, explains itself in the concluding verses. "My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace." By Mosech and Kedar are meant the disturbers of Israel. The missionary abroad, persecuted by ungrateful pagans, and maligned and hindered by immoral and envious settlers; the evangelist at home, whom Pharisees pronounce a low person, and infidels despise; the Methodist, nicknamed by one party a schismatic, and by another now patted on the back, and then cuffed and kicked; the Christian student, in a class composed mainly of disdainful unbelievers and provoking worldlings; the religious workman hated by intemperate associates for his purity, and cursed by blasphemers among them for his piety; the God-fearing apprentice, under an ill-tempered taskmaster who construes his mistakes into proofs of hypocrisy, and among thoughtless shop-mates who ridicule his habits of devotion and his scrupulous behaviour; the converted youth whose parents are not ashamed of being without sittings in the sanctuary, and whose brothers and sisters are Sabbath breakers; any one of these tried saints of the Lord, and many another sufferer from proud and false tongues, may use the words, "Woe is me," etc.

(E. J. Robinson.)

When there was no rain from heaven, God could cause a mist to arise and water the earth (Genesis 2:6); even so, if the Lord should bring us where there be no showers of public ordinances, He can stir up in our souls those holy and heavenly meditations, which shall again drop down like a heavenly dew upon the face of our souls, and keep up a holy verdure and freshness upon the face of our souls. Egypt is said to have no rain; but God makes it fruitful by the overflowing of its own river Nilus. And truly if God bring any true believer into a spiritual Egypt, where the rain of public ordinances doth not fall, He can cause such a flow of holy and heavenly thoughts and meditations as shall make the soul very fruitful in a good and a holy life; and therefore we should oft, in such a condition, believingly remember, that if we do our endeavour, by private prayer, meditation, reading, and such like, God is able, and will, in the want of public ordinances, preserve the life of religion in our souls, by private helps.

(J. Jackson, M. A.)

Religious people are sometimes forced by the necessity of their lives to associate with those who are worldly and irreligious. "Woe is me, that I am constrained to dwell with Mesech, and to have my habitstion among the tents of Kedar." How shall those who have to dwell in the tents of ungodliness keep their souls from being contaminated by bad examples? The following anecdote furnishes a useful hint. A certain nobleman, we are told, was very anxious to see the model from whom Guido painted his lovely female faces. Guido placed his colour-grinder, a big coarse man, in an attitude, and then drew a beautiful Magdalen. "My dear Count," he said, "the beautiful and pure ideal must be in the mind, and then it is no matter what the model is." He in whose heart and mind is enshrined the beautiful and pure idea of Christ has a model after which to shape his life, and then it is no matter about other models.

(Quiver.)

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