David shows his common humanity with us all, in this confession of a longing to escape, by change of place and circumstances, from his troubles, and which made peace and contentment almost impossible.
He was living in the midst of anxieties; the voices of enemies filled his ears; the oppression of the wicked shocked his eyes. Fearfulness and trembling possessed him, as he witnessed the violence and strife of the city, from whose streets deceit and guile departed not.
Betrayed by his own friends and acquaintance and those he had selected for his guides, by those with whom he had taken sweet counsel and walked unto the house of God in company, his courage temporarily failed him, and he longed to escape from these painful and overwhelming trials.
His real thoughts were not those which our reverence for his station and character have usually interpreted these words to carry.
It was not up into the unseen world, where God and angels dwell, that David would then have used his wings to carry him. For in the very next verse he explains himself, and says, "I would flee far away and stay in the desert.” David is seeking an escape from the world.
Suppose God, in answer to his prayer, had given the man after his own heart the wings he desired, and, mounting upon them, David had flown into the loneliest and quietest seclusion.
But in truth, there is no rest in anything but wholesome action; no peace in anything but systematic employment and use of all our powers in the service of the human race, which is the service of our God.
This truth is avouched equally by common sense and observation, and by the precepts of our religion.
The Gospel calls us to redeem the time, employ our talents, exercise our affections, multiply our sympathies, and work ceaselessly in the vineyard of our Master. Our happiness must come from doing our duty; and our duty is to improve the time and the talents God has given us, with the utmost zeal, and to the greatest extent.
It is this sentiment of religious duty which alone has power to calm and steady the mind and heart, while it keeps both earnest and busy in the work of life. Filling the post assigned to us, contending with the obstacles and troubles that lie in our appointed way, flying away from no foes, and evading no obligations – that is the road to heaven and the way of present peace.
Rejoice in the demands made on your gifts and talents. Do not think it necessary to leave your post, because it is monotonous, or lonely, or without opportunities.
Employ your ingenuity in varying its monotony, in breaking up its unsatisfactory nature. Do not waste your time in longing for what is unattainable, but set yourself to work, and do what you can to secure and enjoy what is within your reach. You can each have a cultivated mind, a well-regulated heart, an obedient will.
You can use your eyes and ears, and hands and feet. You may have to invent some new way, or to meet some peculiar obstacles; but what are a man's or woman's mind and character for, but to circumvent difficulties and discover and employ some few original methods?
Anything but vain longings for dove's wings will do. The rest the heart and soul want is in God – full faith in the Father, the Author of our nature. And no dove can carry us nearer to Him than we already are, when we humbly, submissively, and patiently do his will.
No, let His dove come to us instead – that holy Spirit which is God's love and truth and will, welcomed and found and felt in our docile, trusting hearts, and then that rest which visits the soul that is earnest in the Father's business will establish itself here and now, even in the midst of the most painful and trying circumstances.
Then, we shall want no wings to carry us away, for the dove's wings will be folded in a nest which God makes full of peace and quietness for us, and for Himself and his Son, in the bottom of every patient, faithful, and active Christian's heart!
Guest message by Henry W. Bellows (1814-1882)