HH Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
“If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.” Psalm 139:18
A man whose religion is a shallow kind is content with only an occasional acknowledgement of God. He has his stated seasons of approach to God and his rigid periods of worship. There are long stretches of time when, as the Psalmist says, God is not in all his thoughts. He wages his warfare on the field of business in total forgetfulness of the divine–a mark of a religious life which is neither very deep nor very real. It never thrills in spiritual strength or joy.
Now in the book of Psalms, this is not so. The psalmist’s recognition is continuous; always he sets the Lord before him. And it is this continual recognition and this unvarying practice of God’s presence which kindles the Psalmist when he is discouraged and brings the joy that cometh in the morning. When we go to sleep mastered by some thought, that thought is usually beside us when we awake. If it is trouble on which we closed our eyes, how swiftly in the morning it returns! And it was because the Psalmist lived with God and went to sleep under the wings of God that he could take his pen and write in all sincerity, “When I awake, I am still with thee.”
Our text is full of meaning when we think of waking up from our spiritual lethargy. There are times for most of us, in our spiritual life, when we are little better than asleep. Our prayers–how cold and formal they become; they are merely the semblance and mockery of prayer. And the Bible loses its freshness and its blessing and does not leap to meet our needs when we come to it. There settles down a deadness on our spirits, and we go to church and listen to the preaching and might as well be a thousand miles away. Who has not know such desert seasons, such days of lethargy? And to me, the wonder of it all is that when the darkness passes and the dayspring comes, we are still able to lift our heads and say, “When I awake, I am still with thee.” God has not forgotten to be gracious. We have been false to Him; not He to us. He has been longing to show His love again.
A Time of Crushing Sorrow
In all great sorrow, there is something numbing, an insensibility like that of sleep. It is one of the triumphs of our modern medicine that it can apply opiates so powerfully. A prick of a needle and one forgets the agony of pain. But God has His opiates no less than man, and these are reserved for the hours when the physician fails, so that the mourner says, “I can’t understand it–it is like a dream–I cannot realize it.” There is mercy in that numbing of the spirit. The worst might be unbearable without it. When vividness of perception would be torture, God giveth to His beloved sleep. And it is when a man awakens from that sleep, slowly and heavily through dreary days–it is then that he can lift his heart to God and say, “When I awake, I am still with thee.” The past may seem to be far away now, for there are days which do the work of years. But if the past is distant, God is near; nearer than He has ever been before. And the unseen is very real to us, and truths that once were on the dim horizon become the most tremendous of realities. And there are friends who cannot help us as we are moving to regions where they never travelled. But no man who believes in Jesus Christ can move in regions where God has never travelled, for down to the very bitterness of death, God in the Crucified has gone before. That is the joy of having God in Christ. You can never awaken to the bitter day and say, “Of this, the serene God knows nothing.”
The Last Awakening in Eternity
And then, in closing, doesn’t our text also apply to the last waking in eternity? “I shall be satisfied when I awake,” and satisfied because I am with Thee.
I heard the other day of a young husband who had to go under the surgeon’s knife. All went well, and as he awoke again, his first inquiry was for his wife and children. And he was satisfied when he awoke, not merely because of his life which he had regained, but because he was still with those who loved him so and who were all the world to him. That is the Christian doctrine of the future. That is the one clear point in all the mystery. I shall be satisfied when I awake because when I wake, I am still with Thee–still with the God who was my shepherd here; still with the God who saved me and who blessed me; still with the God in whom I trusted amid the shadows and the doubts of time.
The greatest of all questions is just this, “Am I with God, and is God with me?” Do I trust Him and try to serve Him now? If not, when I awake–what then? But if I do and if I seek His face, then when I awake under a touch of death, this will be the glory of it all, that “I am still with Thee.”