By Ellie Kahler | March 7, 2020
“Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.” Psalm 73:25
These words have called my attention since the first time I remember reading them a few years ago. Since then, this verse has come to be arguably my favorite Bible text (arguably, because it’s really hard to single out one Bible verse as the “favorite.”) I repeat it in my mind and fall to my knees and pray it, sometimes from a heart overwhelmed with the glad assurance that it is true, other times pleading that God will make it true for me, and sometimes clinging to it as my only hope, when I realize I truly have nobody else. I think back on the life of the man whose poems, songs, and prayers fill this book we call Psalms—David.
The young shepherd boy spent so many years alone with the sheep in the hills. It was there that nature taught Him that there is none like unto our Creator and Sustainer, God. Next followed years of service to King Saul, not unattended by brewing troubles, even though he was highly admired by the king’s subjects. It must have been then that he learned that the favor of God is all that can be valued and trusted. As the troubles in the king’s court grew, David’s life became one of escape and uncertainty. He learned that neither friend nor one’s own self can be held in perfect confidence—only God. The change of affairs that at long last brought David to the throne of all Israel taught him that only God’s timing is certain and His ways rewarding. His reign was filled with years of obedience and prosperity, but also bitter mistakes and their consequences reaped. Through every victory and every terrible failure, I believe the truth was driven home to this child of God—that truly nothing on earth could support him, and nothing on earth was worth having.
He didn’t learn that lesson overnight. The beginning of Psalm 73 lets us in on an internal battle he was fighting, trying to understand the providence of God in a world turned upside-down by evil. He almost was lead to feel that the Christian race was all in vain, but then it all clicked and he realized what a mistake it had been to doubt God’s ways. What made him realize that? He says in verse 17, “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their (the wicked’s) end.”
I long to be able to say along with David, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee;” and mean it with all my heart. I want those words to be the reality that I live. How can I arrive there? I believe we, too, are called to walk a path similar to David’s. In the moments of sweet stillness, we must allow our thoughts to turn towards communion with Him. When friends betray us, when worldly honor is bestowed us and then suddenly stripped away, when we wander as destitute fugitives, and when be bow under the shame of failure, it is then we must learn that though no human can help, but God is enough. He is everything.
How, though, can we keep from letting these trials crush us and lead us to doubt rather than trust? I believe the answer is in that 17th verse—David went into God’s sanctuary, and then he understood. We too, can only understand God’s sometimes-baffling providences in the light that flows from the sanctuary. Through the sanctuary lies the path to God’s throne. The sanctuary tells us the story of redemption from beginning to end and shows us how we can be partakers in the eternal life thereby offered. It teaches us how we can be forgiven, cleansed, and sanctified. It tells us the importance of Bible study, prayer, and testimony, so that we can grow to the full stature of men and women in Christ Jesus. It shows us the love of a Savior who suffered far more than we ever will, and it shows us… the end. That’s what the psalm states. It says that there, as he contemplated the story of the sanctuary, David saw how it would all end—and suddenly it made sense to him. He realized that this life didn’t matter. That the only thing that mattered was making it to that throne. It didn’t matter what his enemies did to him. It didn’t matter what he suffered. It didn’t matter if he understood what was going on in life and why. All that mattered was that he walk faithfully the path to the throne of God. The closer he came, the more he drew into fellowship with God, and the more he loved Him, until his heart, in joy or in sorrow, sickness or health, riches or poverty, understood or misunderstood, could rest secure in God—All he knew he needed.
Many times I have asked myself if I really love Jesus, and many times I have asked Him to teach me to love Him. He is doing that, but He doesn’t answer by simply giving me some instantaneous love outpouring. Rather, He sends me circumstances and trials. He sends me moments when I feel my heart will break, and it cries out for tangible relief or human comfort. Seeing none, it is tempted to give way to despair and sometimes it does for a time, but then He reminds me that’s not the answer I need, and that’s why He won’t give me what I plead for. What I need can only be found by falling to my knees and pouring out everything into His ear. He has the power to bring peace—the peace neither this world nor anyone in it could ever give. It’s Himself.
May He be all we ever want, for He is certainly all we ever need.