As for me - I cannot be satisfied with such a portion.
I will behold thy face - Nothing but an evidence of thy approbation can content my soul.
In righteousness - I cannot have thy approbation unless I am conformed to thy will. I must be righteous in order that my heart and life may please thee.
I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness - Nothing but God can satisfy the wishes of an immortal spirit. He made it with infinite capacities and desires; and he alone, the infinite Good, can meet and gratify these desires, and fill this all-capacious mind. No soul was ever satisfied but by God; and he satisfies the soul only by restoring it to his image, which, by the fall, it has lost.
I think there is an allusion here to the creation of Adam. When God breathed into him the breath of lives, and he became a living soul, he would appear as one suddenly awaked from sleep. The first object that met his eyes was his glorious Creator, and being made in his image and in his likeness, he could converse with him face to face - was capable of the most intimate union with him, because he was filled with holiness and moral perfection. Thus was he satisfied, the God of infinite perfection and purity filling all the powers and faculties of his soul. David sees this in the light of the Divine Spirit, and knows that his happiness depends on being restored to this image and likeness; and he longs for the time when he shall completely arise out of the sleep and death of sin, and be created anew after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness. I do not think that he refers to the resurrection of the body, but to the resurrection of the soul in this life; to the regaining the image which Adam lost.
The paraphrase in my old Psalter understands the whole of this Psalm as referring to the persecution, passion, death, and resurrection of Christ; and so did several of the primitive fathers, particularly St. Jerome and St. Augustine. I shall give a specimen from Psalm 17:11; : -
Projicientes me, nunc circumdederunt me: oculos suos statuerunt declinare in terram.
Par - Forth kasten me out of the cite, als the stede had bene fyled of me: now thai haf umgyfen me in the cros hyngand, als folk that gedyrs til a somer gamen: for thai sett thair eghen, that es the entent of thaire hert to heeld in the erde; that es, in erdly thynges to covayte tham, and haf tham. And thai wende qwen thai slew Crist that he had suffird al the ill, and thai nane.
Perhaps some of my readers may think that this needs translating, so far does our present differ fronn our ancient tongue.
Text - They have now cast me forth; they have surrounded me: their eyes they set down to the earth.
Par - They have cast me out of the city, as if the state were to be defiled by me: now they have surrounded me hanging on the cross, as people gathered together at summer games. For they set their eyes, that is, the intent of their heart, down to the earth; that is, earthly things, to covet them and to have them: and they thought, when they slew Christ, that he had suffered all the ill, and they none.
By the slot or track of the hart on the ground, referred to in Psalm 17:11, experienced huntsmen can discern whether there have been a hart there, whether he has been there lately, whether the slot they see be the track of a hart or a hind, and whether the animal be young or old. All these can be discerned by the slot. And if the reader have that scarce book at hand, Tuberville on Hunting, 4th, 1575 or 1611, he mill find all this information in chapter 22, p. 63, entitled, The Judgment and Knowledge by the Slot of a Hart; and on the same page; a wood-cut, representing a huntsman with his eyes set, bowing down to the earth, examining three slots which he had just found. The cut is a fine illustration of this clause. Saul and his men were hunting David, and curiously searching every place to find out any track, mark, or footstep, by which they might learn whether he had been in such a place, and whether he had been there lately. Nothing can more fully display the accuracy and intensity of this search than the metaphor contained in the above clause. He who has been his late Majesty's huntsmen looking for the slot in Windsor Forest will see the strength and propriety of the figure used by the psalmist.
As for me - In strong contrast with the aims, the desires, and the condition of worldly individuals. “They” seek their portion in this life, and are satisfied; “I” cherish no such desires, and have no such prosperity. I look to another world as my home, and shall be satisfied only in the everlasting favor and friendship of God.
I will behold thy face - I shall see thee. Compare Matthew 5:8; 1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2. This refers naturally, as the closing part of the verse more fully shows, to the future world, and is such language as would be employed by those who believe in a future state, and by no others. This is the highest object before the mind of a truly religious man. The bliss of heaven consists mainly, in his apprehension, in the privilege of seeing God his Saviour; and the hope of being permitted to do this is of infinitely more value to him than would be all the wealth of this world.
In righteousness - Being myself righteous; being delivered from the power, the pollution, the dominion of sin. It is this which makes heavyen so desirable; without this, in the apprehension of a truly good man, no place would be heaven.
I shall be satisfied - While they are satisfied with this world, I shall be satisfied only when I awake in the likeness of my God. Nothing can meet the wants of my nature; nothing can satisfy the aspirings of my soul, until that occurs.
When I awake - This is language which would be employed only by one who believed in the resurrection of the dead, and who was accustomed to speak of death as a “sleep” - a calm repose in the hope of awaking to a new life. Compare the notes at Psalm 16:9-11. Some have understood this as meaning “when I awake tomorrow;” and they thence infer that this was an evening song (compare Psalm 4:8); others have supposed that it had a more general sense - meaning “whenever I awake;” that is, while men of the world rejoice in their worldly possessions, and while this is the first thought which they have on awaking in the morning, my joy when I awake is in God; in the evidence of his favor and friendship; in the consciousness that I resemble him. I am surprised to find that Prof. Alexander favors this view. Even DeWette admits that it refers to the resurrection of the dead, and that the psalm can be interpreted only on the supposition that it has this reference, and hence, he argues that it could not have been composed by David, but that it must have been written in the time of the exile, when that doctrine had obtained currency among the Hebrews. The interpretation above suggested seems to me to be altogether too low a view to be taken of the sense of the passage.
It does not meet the state of mind described in the psalm. It does not correspond with the deep anxieties which the psalmist expressed as springing from the troubles which surrounded him. He sought repose from those troubles; he looked for consolation when surrounded by bitter and unrelenting enemies. He was oppressed and crushed with these many sorrows. Now it would do little to meet that state of mind, and to impart to him the consolation which he needed, to reflect that he could lie down in the night and awake in the morning with the consciousness that he enjoyed the friendship of God, for he had that already; and besides this, so far as this source of consolation was concerned, he would awake to a renewal of the same troubles tomorrow which he had met on the previous day. He needed some higher, some more enduring and efficient consolation; something which would meet “all” the circumstances of the case; some source of peace, composure, and rest, which was beyond all this; something which would have an existence where there was no trouble or anxiety; and this could be found only in a future world. The obvious interpretation of the passage, therefore, so far as its sense can be determined from the connection, is to refer it to the awaking in the morning of the resurrection; and there is nothing in the language itself, or in the known sentiments of the psalmist, to forbid this interpretation. The word rendered “awake” - קוץ qûts - used only in Hiphil, “means to awake;” to awake from sleep, Psalm 3:5; Psalm 139:18; or from death, 2 Kings 4:31; Jeremiah 51:39; Isaiah 26:19; Job 14:12; Daniel 12:2.
With thy likeness - Or, in thy likeness; that is, resembling thee. The resemblance doubtless is in the moral character, for the highest hope of a good man is that he may be, and will be, like God. Compare the notes at 1 John 3:2. I regard this passage, therefore, as one of the incidental proofs scattered through the Old Testament which show that the sacred writers under that dispensation believed in the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead; that their language was often based on the knowledge and the belief of that doctrine, even when they did not expressly affirm it; and that in times of trouble, and under the consciousness of sin, they sought their highest consolation, as the people of God do now, from the hope and the expectation that the righteous dead will rise again, and that in a world free from trouble, from sin, and from death, they would live forever in the presence of God, and find their supreme happiness in being made wholly like him.
Some will be convicted and will heed the words spoken to them in love and tenderness. They will acknowledge that the truth is the very thing they need to set them free from the slavery of sin and the bondage of worldly principles. There are opened before them themes of thought, fields for action, that they had never comprehended. MM 244.1
In Jesus the Redeemer they discern infinite wisdom, infinite justice, infinite mercy—depths, heights, lengths, and breadths of love which passeth knowledge. Beholding the perfection of Christ's character, contemplating His mission, His love, His grace, His truth, they are charmed; the great want of the soul is met, and they will say with the psalmist, “I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness.” The divine object of faith and love they see to be Jesus Christ; with them the love of the world, the worshiping of earthly treasures, has come to an end.... MM 244.2Read in context »
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Psalm 116:15. “The righteous hath hope in his death.” Proverbs 14:32. With the psalmist, Elisha could say in all confidence, “God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for He shall receive me.” Psalm 49:15. And with rejoicing he could testify, “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.” Job 19:25. “As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness.” Psalm 17:15. PK 264.1
Among the cities of the ancient world in the days of divided Israel one of the greatest was Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian realm. Founded on the fertile bank of the Tigris, soon after the dispersion from the tower of Babel, it had flourished through the centuries until it had become “an exceeding great city of three days’ journey.” Jonah 3:3. PK 265.1Read in context »
Those who have an experimental knowledge of the truth are under obligation to God to communicate the precious light.... Some will be convicted and will heed the words spoken to them in love and tenderness. They will acknowledge that the truth is the very thing they need to set them free from the slavery of sin and the bondage of worldly principles. There are opened before them themes of thought, fields for action, that they had never comprehended. In Jesus the Redeemer they discern infinite wisdom, infinite justice, infinite mercy—depths, heights, lengths and breadths of love which passeth knowledge. Beholding the perfection of Christ's character, contemplating His mission, His love, His grace, His truth, they are charmed; the great want of the soul is met, and they will say with the psalmist, “I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” (Psalm 17:15). The divine object of faith and love they see to be Jesus Christ. With them the love of the world, the worshiping of earthly treasures, have come to an end. TMK 216.2Read in context »