This Psalm is the expression of the desires of those who had long been deprived of the joy of being in the courts of Jehovah during the captivity. It is the expression of the joy of seeing them again, and of taking the road which leads there, even by the valley of weeping, of Baca. The church also moves forward toward the tabernacle of God, but it is that which is not made by human hands.
The subject of each Psalm is ordinarily expressed at the beginning in the first verses. The tabernacles of Jehovah are His house. The faithful is there at home in His rest. One cannot find oneself at rest when the object of the heart is still beyond the point we have reached, even if the place we have stopped at be the most desirable in the world. The first thing which is here presented to us is that the house of Jehovah is the Israelite's resting place (v. 1-4). "Blessed are they that dwell in thy house; they will be still praising thee."
But blessed also is "the man whose strength is in thee in whose heart are the ways," that is, the ways to Jehovah's house. Verse 4 contains our joy in hope; verse 6 contains actual experience along the way. Passing through Baca, they make it a spring; the rain also filleth the pools [or, with blessings]; "they go from strength to strength, appearing [each] in Zion before God." When we begin our course here below, we know God, we learn also more to know Him; it is a feeling which grows and strengthens by communion. God has thereby bound the hearts of Christians. It is the manifestation and accomplishment of His love. The more I know the perfectness of God, the more I know His love, the more also I feel how precious He is to my soul. If my knowledge of God is separated from the knowledge of the love of God, I have not the life of God. The highest perfection of God is manifested to the heart by the first visit He makes to the heart of sinners, and in this respect it cannot be known more by the most advanced child. Here below the heart of man does not answer to the praise of God. One could not praise Him in the streets of a town: the heart of man is enmity against God. The children of God together enjoy God and prepare to go into a world without an echo to raise the voice of the gospel. It is the desire of the converted heart that God may be praised; and he will be fully satisfied in the house of God. Impossible to find repose of soul till God is praised unceasingly by those that surround Him.
102 "Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee." If I have a difficulty, I in my feebleness have need of strength to sustain me in patient endurance. Peter without this strength denied Jesus. We may be weary when we act in our strength, for what is the strength of the flesh? When we act in the power of God, it is impossible. No creature can separate us from the power of God or the love of God. What is stronger? Jesus ever dependent was the strongest, and overcame the world. God has set our rest at the end of a path that we are treading; and it is good for us in order that we may make the experience of our own heart. It is those who are already redeemed who are on the road toward the rest of God. The word of God renders the thing surer than any other testimony could. It is a defile to pass on the other side of which is the glory. Into this defile we must go down. One may there lose sight of the glory; and the way be difficult; but we have the certainty that it is the road to the glory. God has told us that in this road we shall be despised by the world and in conflict with Satan. He has told us these things before that, when they come, we might believe His testimony to be true.
Here below we find not the rest but the way; but the way should be in our heart. Thus the valley of Baca, a ruined earth, is changed into a fountain. If we are in communion with God, every difficulty becomes the occasion for the display of the glory of God (2 Thess. 1). The timid child finds joy in the assurance of its mother's love when some danger presents itself. We are often overwhelmed because our strength is not in God, who would have His grace sufficient for us; which is more precious than the removal of the thorn in the flesh. "The rain also filleth the pools." It comes not from the earth but from heaven, to which we should be attached and whence we may expect everything. There is no such source of refreshment here below that I may know that God takes extra care of me, to give me water and manna and strength, and in a word everything. It is a blessing that we should be thus brought low: He has not done so either to the Egyptians or to the Canaanites. We ought to live on that which cometh out of the mouth of God (Deut. 8:2-5).
The effect of these things is to make one "go from strength to strength." The difficulties are meant to make us know new strength on God's part. We are not actually capable of enjoying all that there is in God. Also all is not yet given us. God gets more place in our hearts. The empty or hard places of the heart are manifested; and God has to fill or clear them. The Lord God of hosts, that is to say, the God who governs all things, He who is faithful to His promises, and who has all things at His disposal, the God of His people, God ever the same. God presents Himself in three different ways: Jehovah or the Eternal, God of Jacob, and God of hosts. "Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed." There is that assurance, the pledge of divine favour. God regards us in Christ; and all that we ask of Him in the name of Jesus He will do. Better be a door keeper in the house of God than dwell in the courts of the world. If our confidence is in man, we shall find ourselves sooner or later where man will fail us; and there is what Satan waits for in order to sift us. To trust in God is the hardest thing, as it lays the flesh under our feet, and self can gain nothing by it, but it is inexpressible joy for the heart.