Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
“From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:2
Whatever suggested the image of our text, the inward meaning of it is explicit. It is the long cry of the human heart for the forgiveness and comforting of God. There are times when the deepest craving of the soul is for something higher than itself. The self-reliance of our sunny hours is lost in a deep feeling of dependence. And that deep feeling of dependence, expressed in many relationships of life, is never satisfied nor perfected until it finds its rest in God. Now when the heart is overwhelmed (as was the Psalmist’s) there always falls a dimness on the eye. The rock of safety may be very near, but the mist hangs heavy, and we cannot see it. It is then the soul betakes itself to prayer and like the shipwrecked sailor or the desert, wanderer supplicates heavenly guidance to the refuge. There is a rock higher than our highest, but we all need to be led to it. No one can by searching find out God. And how we are led there by a most loving guidance, whether it be of providence or grace, is the question which arises from our text.
The Experience of Failure
We see, for instance, how often men are led to the Rock by the bitter experience of failure. Man’s extremity of need is heaven’s opportunity for leadership. A pastor friend of mine was once traveling on a train shared his experience with me. He said, “he was joined by a well-known merchant whose affairs were on the point of bankruptcy. And quite naturally, after a little talk, the merchant asked (my friend) if he would pray for him, and there in the carriage of the train, they knelt down and prayed. He was a strong, self-reliant man, that merchant. He was not given to asking help of anybody. But now the deepest craving of his heart was for something higher than himself on which to rest.”
And much of what is difficult in life, and overwhelming to the point of heartbreak, is but the kindly stratagem of heaven to lead us to the higher Rock. Those hours of heart-sinking familiar to us all, the feeling that we have spent our strength for nothing, the deep conviction which visits us in secret that all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags–such things, for ten thousand souls, have been the hidden leadership of heaven to the Rock that is higher than themselves. Deep is calling unto deep, the deep of misery to that of mercy. Out of the depths, man is always crying. And though he often knows not what he cries for, God knows and answers through the dark by leading the overwhelmed soul to Himself.
Devotion to the Best
Again, we note how often men are led thither by lowly devotion to the best. Loyal to the highest that they know, they are confronted by the higher Rock. If this universe is not a righteous universe and if love lies not at the heart of things, what use is there in striving to be righteous or in making love the passion of our lives? But the strange thing is that whenever a man is loyal to the best and worthiest he knows, he is never left with questions like that. He is led upward from his cherished loyalties to something loftier than his loyalties. It is a Rock, solid and impregnable; the Rock on which the universe is built. He passes upward from his values to the reality of what he values; he discovers he has aligned himself with God.
When men live for love and truth and mercy, God is always walking in their garden. They come to feel with deepening conviction that the things they strive for are not passing dreams but answer to the realities of heaven. Do your duty, though it is very irksome, and do it because it is your duty; be tender-hearted, forgiving one another, no matter how you are tempted to be hard; and above you, over-arching you, the reality of what you strive for, you will discover God who is our Rock. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto me.” To be true to the highest that we know is to be led to the Rock that is still higher. “Madam,” said the preacher once to a lady lamenting she had lost the Lord, “go down and work in the slums and you will find Him.”
The Guiding Hand of Christ
But, above all, we are led to the Rock that is higher by the guiding hand of Christ–“no man cometh to the Father but by me.” When we crave for the certainty that God is love, we may turn in vain to nature or to history. Nature and history have many voices, but they never cry, “I am the way.” Only Christ proclaims Himself the way to One higher than our highest thought because deeper than our deepest need. Thus, although the Psalmist did not know it, he saw the day of Christ and he was glad. It was for Christ that he was yearning in that passionate outcry of his spirit. It is He who takes us by the hand and leads us where philosophy can never lead us, to Love, to a Father on the throne, to “the rock that is higher than I.”