Such is the condition of the child of God—a stranger in the earth! This confession, however, from a solitary wanderer would have had little comparative meaning. But in the mouth of one, who was probably surrounded with every sort of worldly enjoyment, it shows at once the vanity of ''earth's best joys," and the heavenly tendency of the religion of the Bible. This has been ever the character, confession, and glory of the Lord's people. We "would not live always;" and gladly do we hear the warning voice, that reminds us to "arise and depart, for this is not our rest." And was not this especially the character, not of David only, but of David's Lord? Born at an inn— "having nowhere to lay His head"—suffering hunger—subsisting upon alms—neglected by His own—He "looked for some to take pity, but there was none, and for His comforters, but He found none"—might He not justly take up the confession, "I am a stranger in the earth?"
This verse exhibits the Christian in many most interesting points of view; distant from his proper home—without a fixed residence—with no particular interest in the world—and submitting to all the inconveniences of a stranger on his journey homewards. Such is his state!
And the word of God includes all that he needs—a guide, a guard, a companion—to direct, secure, and cheer his way. "When you go, it shall lead you; when you sleep, it shall keep you; and when you awake, it shall talk with you." Most suitable then is the stranger's prayer, "hide not Your commandments from me." Acquaintance with the word of God supplies the place of friends and counselors. It furnishes light, joy, strength, food, armor, and whatever else he may need on his way homewards.
The pilgrim-spirit is the pulse of the soul. All of us are traveling to eternity. The worldling is at home in the earth—a pilgrim only by restraint. His heart would say, "It is good for me to be here. Let God dispose of heaven at His pleasure. I am content to have my "portion in this life." The child of God is a stranger in the earth. Heaven is the country of his birth. His kindred—his inheritance—his Savior—his hope—his home—all is there. He is "a citizen of no insignificant city," of "the heavenly Jerusalem." He is therefore a pilgrim in affection, no less than in character. How cheering is the thought, that "here we have no continuing city," if in heart and soul we are "seeking one to come!"
We know, indeed, that we cannot—we would not—call this world our home, and that it is far better to be without it, than to have our portion in it. But do we never feel at home in the earth, thus forgetting our proper character, and our eternal prospects? Do we always live, speak, and act as "strangers in the earth;" in the midst of earthly enjoyments, sitting loose to them, as if our treasure was in heaven? Does our conversation in the society of the world savor of the home, where we profess to be going? Is the world gaining ascendancy in our affection? Let the cross of Calvary be the object of our daily contemplation—the ground of our constant "glorying;" and the world will then be to us as a "crucified" object.
And lastly, let us not forget, that we are looking forward, and making a progress towards a world, where none are strangers—where all are children of one family, dwelling in one eternal home. "In our Father's house," said our gracious Head, "are many mansions: I go to prepare a place for you."
"I am a stranger in the earth." This is meant for a plea. By divine command men are bound to be kind to strangers, and what God commands in others he will exemplify in himself. The Psalmist was a stranger for God's sake, else had he been as much at home as worldlings are: he was not a stranger to God, but a stranger to the world, a banished man so long as he was out of Heaven. Therefore he pleads, "Hide not your commandments from me." If these are gone, what have I else? Since nothing around me is mine, what can I do if I lose your word? Since none around me know or care to know the way to yourself, what shall I do if I fail to see your commands, by which alone I can guide my steps to the land where you dwell? David implies that God's commands were his solace in his exile: they reminded him of home, and they showed him the way thither, and therefore he begged that they might never be hidden from him, by his being unable either to understand them or to obey them. If spiritual light be withdrawn, the command is hidden, and this a gracious heart greatly deprecates. What would be the use of opened eyes if the best object of sight were hidden from their view? While we wander here we can endure all the ills of this foreign land with patience, if the word of God is applied to our hearts by the Spirit of God; but if the heavenly things which make for our peace were hid from our eyes, we should be in an evil case—in fact, we should be at sea without a compass, in a desert without a guide, in an enemy's country without a friend.
This prayer is a supplement to "Open my eyes," and as the one prays to see, the other deprecates the negative of seeing, namely the command being hidden, and so out of sight. We do well to look at both sides of the blessing we are seeking, and to plead for it from every point of view. The prayers are appropriate to the characters mentioned: as he is a servant, he asks for opened eyes that his eyes may ever be towards his Lord, as the eyes of a servant should be; as a stranger, he begs that he may not be strange to the way in which he is to walk towards his home. In each case his entire dependence is upon God alone.
Note how the third of the second octave (11) has the same keyword as this third of the third octave: "Your word have I hid," "Hide not your commandments from me." This invites a meditation upon the different senses of hiding in and hiding from.