Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
“But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple.” Psalm 5:7
David was a man of many privileges bestowed on him in the goodness of his Lord. He had the privilege of the poetic heart and the privilege also of a royal estate. But in this text, he singles out a privilege we may all share with him. It is the privilege of public worship. “As for me,” he says, “I will go into thy house.” The very thought of it was a delight to him. It made a secret music in his heart when the hour of public worship was approaching. For him, the recurring summons to the sanctuary was not a call to begrudgingly obeyed. It was the happiest summons of this week.
This is perhaps the more remarkable in the light of the personality of David. This was one of those poetic natures for which the world is all aflame with God. We read in Revelation that in the other world there is no temple. There is no need of any sanctuary, for the whole expanse of heaven is a sanctuary. And there are natures in this present world so quick to see and feel that God is everywhere, that the whole universe for them is aglow with His presence. For them, the great Creator is not far away. He is very near and He is always speaking. It is His voice that is calling in the sea and in the wind that bloweth where it listeth. The tiniest weed, the day-spring and the evening, the stars and the bird on the branch are but the manifold and changing shadows of that infinite perfection which is God. It is with such thoughts that the poet walks the world. It was with such thoughts that David walked the world. For him in every field, there was an altar and a sacrifice in every breath of evening. And the wonderful thing is that with a heart like that, that saw God everywhere and worshipped Him, there should have been this overwhelming sense of the privilege of sanctuary worship. “Let others do what they like,” is what he means, “as for me, I will go into thy house.” There was something there that nothing else could give him, neither the lonely mountain nor the sea. And so at once, as reasonable men, we find ourselves confronted by this question–what was there in the worship of God’s house that made it thus indispensable to David?
The Sense of Human Fellowship
Well, in the first place, in the house of God there was for David the sense of human fellowship. In the deepest yearnings of his heart, he felt in the sanctuary that he was not alone. It is a lonely thing to be a king, and David the psalmist was a king. He lived in a certain solitary grandeur which is ever the penalty of the royal estate. And then for him, there was another loneliness that pierces deeper than that of regal state–it was the loneliness of the poetic heart. To be a monarch is to be a solitary, and to be a poet is to be a solitary. The one is separated by his rank from men, and the other by his inspiration. And it is when one recalls that David was not only a monarch but a poet too that one begins to understand his loneliness. He craved for fellowship, as we all do, and for him, it was very difficult to find. He had to deny himself those pleasant intimacies that are so heartening to the common man.
My brother, out of a loneliness like that can’t you gather the exquisite delight with which the poet-king would turn his steps to the communion of the house of God? There he was no longer solitary. There he was a subject, not a king. There he was as a brother among brothers under the shadow of a Father-God. And every sacrifice upon the altar and every word of penitence and praise told of a fellowship that lay far deeper than everything that can sunder human lives.
Deeper than everything which separates is the need of pardon for the sinner. Deeper than every individual craving is the craving for fellowship with God. No wonder, then, that David loved the sanctuary. No wonder that with eager feet he sought it. No wonder that the hour of public prayer was the most cherished season of this week. Seeking that fellowship which every soul demands, no matter how richly gifted it may be, he said: “As for me, I will come into thy house.”
Brethren, as with David, so with us, that is the privilege of public worship. In all the deepest regions of our being, it is the assurance of a real fellowship. In the market-place, men meet and mingle on the basis or a common interest in the business. In the home, lives are united by all the tender ties of human love. But in the sanctuary, the ground of fellowship is the common need of our immortal spirit which knows its weakness and its need for pardon and cannot be satisfied with less than God. Don’t try to invoke your ideas to make a man guilty before God. There was no room for man’s interference ‘ but to worship the God of David.
When Christian was in the Valley of the Shadow, you remember, he heard the voice of Faithful on ahead. ( THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS) And it cheered him and comforted his heart to know that there was another in the Valley. And that is one thing the sanctuary does for us in a way that nothing else can ever do as we fight our battles, fall and rise again, and wrestle heavenward against storm and tide. It tells us there are others in the Valley. It gives us the happy certainty of comradeship. In common prayer, we voice a common need, and in common praise a common aspiration. And within the house of God, we come to feel that we are not alone, and to feel that is like a strain of music. Without that fellowship we should despair, for the pathway is infinitely hard. Without that fellowship, knowing our instability, we might falter and fall by the wayside. And then there falls on us the benediction of worship and we are awakened to the sense of brotherhood. Others have known the things that we have known, the failures and the struggles and the yearnings. Others as vile as we have been redeemed and became more than conquerors of Christ. Others, too, have been tempted to despair and have thought of the heavens as brass and yet have known that to depart from God was the avenue to death. My brothers and sisters, it is such things that we learn in public worship in the house of God. No lonely meadow, no still and shady woods, no lonely mountainside can teach us that. And therefore from all the ministries of nature will the true seeker turn to the house of God, saying with the poet-king of Israel, “As for me, I shall come into thy house.’
The Message From the Past
In the second place, within the house of God, there was for David the message of the past. There was the memorial of all that God had been in His unfailing shepherding of Israel. In the life of David, as in the lives of all of us, there were seasons when he was hard pressed–seasons when the sky was dark and lowering and all the sunshine seemed to have departed. And who does not know how in such times as these the light of the countenance of God is quenched as though He had quite forgotten to be gracious. Such tragic hours were in a lot of David. There seemed for him to be no justice anywhere. Slander was rife and treachery was busy; hatred was malignant and victorious. And in such hours as these, it seemed to David, who was a man of like passions with ourselves as if the covenant of heaven were broken and his movements unseen by his God. What David needed in such hours as there was a larger message than his life could give him. He needed a reassurance of his God drawn from the wonderful story of the past. And not on the battlefields of Israel’s history but in the sanctuary of Israel’s faith was that sweet reassurance to be found. There in the house of God stood the ark that had been borne through all the wanderings of the wilderness. There was the mercy-seat where God had dwelt under the sheltering wings of golden cherubim. There was the pot of manna from the desert that had fed the hungry in their hour of need. There was the rod of Aaron that had budded. “As for me, I will come into thy house.” David went to revive his courage by the past. When times were tragic, when faith was hard to keep, he went to learn the ways of God again. And so, refreshed and strengthened with that view of all that the living God had been to Israel, courage returned and dying hope revived, and David was made equal to his day. No man knew better than that poet-king the healing and help of the ministry of nature. But in hours like these when faith was tested, it was not to meadow or mountain that he turned; it was to the sanctuary, to the house of God, to the shrine and witness of an unfailing covenant–“As for me, I will come into thy house.”
The Comfort of the Communion
And so it is with you and me (my brethren and followers on this Gospel Blog) as we turn our steps on the Lord’s day to the sanctuary. We come to gain for our uncertain hearts the large, grand assurance of the past. As we listen there to the reading of those Scriptures that have been the star of countless generations, as we lift our voices in those ancient hymns (Those Methodist hymns and Sankie) that were sung by thousands who are now in glory, are we not lifted above our cloudy present, where the divine purpose is so hard to see, into a region that is full of God? We have no ark, no golden cherubim, no budding rod, no gathered manna. But we have something that is far more eloquent of what the Lord has been throughout the ages. We have the broken bread and we have the wine in the memorial Supper of our Saviour which unites us with every faithful heart that ever trusted in His grace. All that is given us in the sanctuary, and given us nowhere else than in the sanctuary–that sight and sense of all that God has been in the large and roomy spaces of the ages. And so we are kept from the blackness of despair and from thinking that God has forgotten to be gracious when, in our separate and individual lives, we look for Him and our eyes are dim. Blessed be God for the ministry of nature and for all the peace and healing of His hand. Blessed be God for the heather on the hill and the music of the stream in the valley. But when the way is dark and faith is difficult and prayer seems empty, we need another ministry than that. We need the testimony of the ages then. We need the ministry of the long past. We need to know that God has kept His promises from generation unto generation. And such is the testimony that like a flowing tide is borne in upon our darkened souls when with the poet of Israel we say, “As for me, I will come into thy house.”
The Mercy of God
As we come to a close there is a third aspect, within the house of God there was for David the blessed sense of mercy. “As for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy.” Will you observe it is mercy–in the singular. It is not mercies–in the plural. The mercy of God is not many different things; the singer knew that mercy is all one. And yet to him, that attribute of mercy was of such various and changing feature that the only way in which he could describe it was to compare it to a multitude. In a great crowd, there is one common life. It is one life that animates the whole. Yet in a crowd, how that common life expresses itself in a thousand different ways. And so for David, there were a thousand tokens that the Lord God was merciful and gracious, and yet he knew that the mercy was all one.
Ah, how utterly David needed mercy. Without mercy, there was no hope for him. He, the poet and king of Israel–what a guilty sinner he had been! My brother and sister, it was in search of mercy, mercy to pardon his sin unto the uttermost, that he cried out of a broken heart, “As for me, I will come into thy house.” He had searched for mercy in the creation and it had baffled him to find it there. He had looked to the stars for it and to the firmament, only to learn the littleness of man. And then in agony, and with that sense of guilt which was wrought by the Holy Spirit on his heart, he had turned to the house of God and found it there. Mercy–it was the message of the ark, for above the ark there was the mercy-seat. Mercy–it was the message of the manna, for it had been given to a rebellious people. And every sacrifice upon the altar and every offering accepted there, spoke of the Lord God merciful and gracious. That was what David needed above everything, and that was what only the sanctuary gave him. No forest depth, no everlasting mountains, gave him the peace of reconciliation. And that was why David with his poet’s heart, alive to all the music of the universe, turned to the sanctuary and cried, “As for me, I will come into thy house.”
My friend, my brothers, and sisters, children of God, as with David so with us: of all our needs, our deepest need is mercy–mercy to pardon, mercy to receive, mercy while we live and when we die. Without a mercy infinite and boundless, there is no hope for any mortal man. Without a mercy glorious and flee, there is nothing but a fearful looking for of judgment. And I do not know of anywhere within this universe where there sounds out the silver bell of mercy save in that ministry of reconciliation which is the message of the house of God. I turn to nature and I don’t find it. I search for it in vain among the hills. I hear it not in the song of any brook nor in the organ-music of the sea. But the moment I enter into the house of God, clear as a trumpet, soft as the breath of evening, I hear of a mercy that is high as heaven and deeper far than the abyss of sin. Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. Christ hath died, the just for the unjust. He is able to save unto the uttermost. My brothers and sisters, whatever else we need, that is the deepest need of every one of us, for without that mercy none of us can live, and without it, none of us can die in peace. Cherish, then, all that is bright and beautiful in the world around you and in the sky above you. Walk with an open ear, as David did, for every accent of the great Creator. And then like David, poet-king, and sinner, feeling your need of the everlasting mercy, say to your soul afresh this Lord’s day, “As for me, I will come into thy house.”