The Swallow's Nest.

Psalm 84:1-4.

F.W. Grant.

(Extracted from Miscellaneous Writings, volume 2.)


"The Lord will give grace and glory:" this is the characteristic verse of the eighty-fourth psalm. And what is "glory," beloved reader? What does your heart connect with that word, or link with the thought of all the blessedness that is before your soul in that eternity into which we are so soon to enter? It is not a question of mere accuracy as to a word. Words mean things: and the question is really important, yea, of the deepest importance for our souls. What attraction is there in the prospect before us? What makes heaven bright? what quickens our steps toward it? That which controls our hearts, reveals them too. What then do we count glory? It is plain that the mere deliverance from pain and sorrow and toil and care is not that; nor even from the sin which has brought in all this. It is positive blessing far beyond what is implied by freedom from all ill. What then is the blessedness before us, I again ask? "It is to see Christ and to be with Him," many of my readers will at once reply; and where it is not mere knowledge, but wells out of a full heart, thank God for that answer. Closely connected it is, moreover, with the true thought of glory. Glory is divine display. — "In His temple doth every one speak of His glory," (Ps. 29:9.) — or, as it should be rather, "doth every one say, 'Glory.'" It is to the tabernacle, not the temple, that the Psalmist refers; but whether tabernacle or temple, in the place of God's presence gold covered every thing. From the ark of the covenant to the boards over which hung the beauteous curtains, and even in the curtains themselves, gold shone everywhere. Outside, in the court, the brazen laver and the brazen altar had their place: inside, there was no brass, but only gold.

Gold has, I believe, its interpretation given us by the apostle, where, speaking of the golden cherubim overshadowing the mercy-seat, he calls them "the cherubim of glory." The aptness of the figure, one would think, should strike one at a glance; much more so when we consider the things themselves which were made of gold, or which it covered. All these were Christ, and Christ in that which is His distinctively, the manifestation of God to man. His glory is just Himself displayed. You cannot put glory on Him; on Him no other light can be made to shine. All true light is His light — is Himself, for "God is light."

When we speak of God seeking His own glory, or glorifying Himself, what do we mean by it? If a man seeks his own glory, it is pride or selfishness that acts in him; and do not the thoughts even of God's people sometimes almost confound man's thought in this with God's, however much they would abhor the inference? But as God is the opposite of fallen man in all things, so it is here. Man in seeking his own glory claims and craves, but God in seeking His but loves and gives; for His glory is Himself displayed, is the blessing of His creatures: His glory is His goodness; what the angels' words unite is pledged by the Babe born in Bethlehem never to be sundered — "Glory to God in the highest," and "on earth peace, good pleasure in men."

Can we add, indeed, to His infinite riches? Does He whose are the cattle upon a thousand hills demand our sacrifices because He is hungry? the voice that said "Give Me to drink" to the woman of Samaria, was it that of the poor stranger merely that it seemed? Ah, what should make our praises matter of concern to Him with whom all the nations are counted as grasshoppers, and who taketh up the isles as a very little thing?

It is love to which we are of account, — love alone that seeks to have our hearts (and thus our praises) full of Himself. And the method of His love is to make known what He is, to display His ways, His character, His perfections, to us, that the eye opened to behold might affect the heart, and the heart satisfied might give us competency to be His witnesses, not only among men, but "that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus."

And the glory to which we are going is a scene in which God will be everywhere beheld, everywhere enjoyed, everywhere adored. The madness of infidelity that scoffs at the ceaseless worship of heaven does not understand this worship to be just the witness and pledge of its endless felicity, while of the divine goodness thus revealed it is necessarily ignorant.

All man's good is in the manifestation of God thus to the soul. In a world which His hands have made, and into which, though fallen, still His mercies come continuously, where His sun shines on the evil and the good, and His rain falls on the just and on the unjust, men vainly deem that they can do without Him. Alas! with the goods of his father in his hand, man can enjoy his pleasure in a far-off country, disregarding the famine that will surely come. They can think of doing without God in a world from which, though hidden, He is not withdrawn. Once withdrawn, they will find too late what they have chosen; for as heaven is God's dwelling-place, hell is the place whence He is forever absent: if God is light, hell is the place of utter and unimagined darkness.

In this eighty-fourth psalm, it is God Himself that is the object of the soul's desire: it is for the living God that flesh and heart cry out; Jehovah's tabernacles, Jehovah's courts, Jehovah's altars, Jehovah's house. Nor is it a feeble desire after this, — the soul longs and faints: "How amiable are Thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God." This is the breathing of a saint in Old Testament times, beloved reader, — one by whom necessarily Christ was seen afar off, and the glory of God was connected with an earthly tabernacle, not with the heaven opened now to faith. And we, to whom so far greater a revelation has been vouchsafed, have our hearts gone out with even equal longings after the Father's house, after the place of His presence? Is this indeed the glory for which we yearn as we rejoice in hope of the glory of God?

That expression, "the living God," gives a connection with the second part of the psalm, which speaks of the way by which the end here contemplated is reached; as for Israel the way to Canaan was through the wilderness, so for us also our inheritance is similarly reached. And our wilderness, as theirs, barren sand and rock though it be, has yet for faith its harvests. How glorious to see, in the glister of the morning dew, the manna — the mighty's meat! How wonderful to see the flinty rock pour forth water! How blessed from day to day to realize in the constant guidance of the cloud and fire, the tender care of the Lord their Shepherd! For us, how much more blessed to see in all these things the shadows of which we have the substance! In all these, the living God it is who is discovering Himself to us; the God who, unlike the gods of the heathen, has eyes to see, and ears to hear, and heart to feel for us, and strong arm to save. The wilderness has thus its harvest of rich experiences stored up for that time in which —
"He who to his rest shall greet thee
Greets thee with a well-known love."

Guided by His hand, watched over and tended by His unfailing goodness, the heart that realizes it all longs after Himself. And this one thing lacking in our cup of blessing gives us the character of pilgrims, not carried on simply by the resistless stream of time, but oared forward by their hearts, — by the faith which is not alone "the evidence of things unseen," but also "the substance of things hoped for." And thus the path of the just becomes "as the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day," — the glory awaiting us ever brightening more our path as we approach it. There alone is our home — the place of our affections, the land of rest.

"Yea, the sparrow hath found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young." The sparrow and the swallow are here our emblems; the sparrow, the social bird, — the sparrow alone upon the housetop, the perfect figure of desolation; the swallow, "the bird of freedom," as its name implies, the restless bird, ever on the wing, but which finds too its place of rest, tamed by the power of love.

Thus will heaven be to us: the sparrow's house, the swallow's nest. God has formed us for social affections, and in heaven they shall be fully satisfied. We may be solitary in the wilderness, in heaven never. He who "setteth the solitary in families" has prepared for us a city. Cain's thought was not the original, and was only wrong in the endeavor to realize in separation from God, and in rebellion against Him, what can be enjoyed aright but from His hand. Of the city which hath foundations, the builder and maker is God. And that city is the heavenly Jerusalem, not a city of earth.

This city is His "for whom are all things, and by whom are all things." The throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; the glory of God shall lighten it, and the Lamb is the lamp thereof. How that sweet penetrating light permeating the whole place with its pure radiance tells of what the joy of the presence of God shall be! Of this glory the Lamb is the lamp; and the city is the bride, too, of the Lamb. We cannot wonder, for "for Him were all things created, and by Him were all things created." And He it is who is the "Father of Eternity,"* as the prophet calls Him: the One through whom all things get their eternal shape. Such is the true David of whom that one hundred and thirty-second psalm is written: who "sware unto the Lord, and vowed unto the mighty One of Jacob; Surely I will not come into my house, nor go up into my bed; I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids, until I find out a place for the Lord, a habitation for the mighty One of Jacob." Yes, if Jacob's mighty One is to dwell in grace among men, Christ it is who alone, at His own personal cost, must find Him a habitation. The psalm speaks of Israel indeed, and of God's dwelling-place on earth, but how fully is it true of the heavenly city! The Son has provided a resting-place for the Father's heart; and it is the Father's voice which says, "This is My rest forever; here will I dwell, for I have desired it."

{* Isaiah 9:6: not the "Everlasting Father;" of which phrase, in our common version, much mischief has been made.}

But the Father's rest is the place of the Son's affection and delight — eternal delight, for He changes not. The city is the Lamb's bride, won for Himself, as the title implies, in the hour of His sacrifice, purchased by the shedding of His precious blood. Here He sees the fruit of the travail of His soul. This is the home, beloved reader, that God has provided for His own. Well may we long for an inheritance such as this. Here the sparrow will find a house. The ties of affection which unite us here will there receive their full interpretation, refined and spiritualized into links by which the redeemed will be held indissolubly to one another. The all-enveloping love of Christ to each and all will unite all in a tender and complacent delight which will be the reflection and response to that love of His. Yes, the sparrow will find a house indeed.

And the swallow will find a nest also. The bird of freedom, none the less free, held fast by the same cords of love, will spend her unwearied energy in the joy of service: she shall have a nest where she may lay her young. What man calls freedom is commonly, alas! but independence, and thus selfishness and mere unrest. The swallow's restless wing may well be its type. But the swallow serving at the nest is God's image of freedom, and of satisfaction, surely, too. Such service eternity surely will not divorce us from, or we should in one respect fail in likeness to our blessed Lord. He is a servant forever; and service never can be lacking to the kings and priests of God.

But this sparrow's house, this swallow's nest, where is it? How strange, at first sight, the answer! "Thine altars, O Lord of Hosts, my King and my God!" Yet this is but the first thought, to which we return, and which puts the seal of perfection on the whole picture. God's altars were two, in those tabernacles to which of course the Psalmist refers here: there was the altar of burnt-offering in the outer court, the altar of incense in the sanctuary itself; the one was the atonement-altar, the other the praise-altar: we must look at both.

The altar, in every case, is Christ; the altar that sanctifieth the gift — all and every gift — could be no other. And it is simple that in Him the soul rests, and forever rests. But it is clear that not merely Christ in His own person is intended, but Christ in connection with that of which the altar in its purpose speaks.

First, then, the atonement-altar calls back our hearts to that which is the basis of all our blessings. If forever we are to enjoy a scene in which our hearts shall find joy multiplied as many times as we shall find others to share with us in it, we shall, then at least, forever realize how this is for us the result of that unequaled sorrow, when the accumulated sins of generations were borne by one solitary Man. The blessedness of communion with God and with one another springs out of the forsaking by God of Him whom all else had either rejected or forsaken. Upon this foundation shall we build forever, and here will our hearts adoringly and forever rest. The sparrow will find a house.

That service of love, too, will it not be the basis of all other service, even as our freedom will be the fruit of His purchase? — "O Lord, doubtless I am Thy servant, and the son of Thine handmaid; Thou hast loosed my bonds." Yes, surely, in the altar of sacrifice the swallow will find her nest.

The praise-altar is itself the fruit of the altar of atonement; in sign of which, the blood was put upon the horns of it: and this is the altar with which the priests in the sanctuary had to do. Our altar of praise is that upon which our whole life is to be offered, and this in the fragrance of the incense, which is Christ Himself. If already our life here, how much more the life to come, of which indeed the present is but the beginning! "Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house; they will be still praising Thee." There we shall rest, where they rest not day or night in the chorus of universal praise. Even now, true service is that; then, it shall be the whole outcome. "To me to live is Christ," says the apostle. — "The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me." If of Jerusalem below it be true, how much more of the heavenly city, shall her "gates be called Praise"!

F. W . Grant.