Woe to me that I dwell in Meshech, that I live among the tents of Kedar!
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.
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.)
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.)
(E. J. Robinson.)
(J. Jackson, M. A.)
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