“FOR THE LORD GOD is a sun and a shield: the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you” (Ps. 84:11-12).
Much of this psalm exults in the sheer privilege and delight of abiding in the presence of God, which for the children of the old covenant meant living in the shadow of the temple. “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Ps. 84:2). To have a place “near your altar” is to have a home, in exactly the same way that a sparrow finds a home or a swallow builds a nest (Ps. 84:3). “Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you” (Ps. 84:4; see also the meditation for April 17).
But what about the last two verses of this psalm? Don’t they go over the top, promising too much? The psalmist insist that God withholds “no good thing” from those whose walk is blameless. Well, since we all sin, I suppose there is an escape clause: who is blameless? Isn’t it obvious that God withholds lots of good things from lots of people whose walk is about as blameless as walks can get, this side of the new heaven and the new earth?
Consider Eric Liddell, the famous Scottish Olympian celebrated in the film Chariots of Fire. Liddell became a missionary in China. For ten years he taught in a school, and then went farther inland to do frontline evangelism. The work was not only challenging but dangerous, not the least because the Japanese were making increasing inroads. Eventually he was interned with many other Westerners. In the squalid camp, Liddell was a shining light of service and good cheer, a lodestar for the many children there who had not seen their parents for years, a self-sacrificing leader. But a few months before they were released, Liddell died of a brain tumor. He was forty-three. In this life he never saw the youngest of his three daughters: his wife and children had returned to Canada before the Japanese sweep that rounded up the foreigners. Didn’t the Lord withhold from him a long life, years of fruitful service, the joy of rearing his own children?
Perhaps the best response lies in Liddell’s favorite hymn:
Be still, my soul! the Lord is on thy side; Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain. Leave to thy God to order and provide; In every change, He faithful will remain. Be still, my soul! thy best, thy heav’nly Friend Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.