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Out of Joint




Alexander Maclaren began his fifth chapter in Leaves from the Tree of Life with these two verses from the King James Version:


"I am a stranger in the earth: hide not Thy commandments from me." and "The earth, O Lord, is full of Thy mercy: teach me Thy statues." —Psalm 119:19, 64


I can't say it any better than he did so I will give you the full quote from the chapter.


"The two facts on which the one petition rests are like two great piers on opposite sides of a river, each of which holds one end of the arch. 'The earth is full of Thy mercy'; ay! but ' I am a stranger upon the earth.' These two things are both true, and from each of them, and still more from both of them taken together, rises up this petition.


'The earth is full of Thy mercy,' as a cup is brimming with rich wine or as the flowers are full of morning dew. The psalmist's point of view is not the scientific or poetical. It lies back of all science, and is quite unaffected by it. He is sure that God is at work in the world, so that every creature that lives, and every thing that is, lives and is because God is operative on it, and that the whole creation is the object of God's loving thought, and has some reflection of His smile cast across it as 'the light of laughing flowers along the grass is spread.' Spring days with life opening out of the dust, and the annual miracle beginning again all around, with the birds in the trees that even dwellers in towns can hear singing as if their hearts would burst for very mirth and hopefulness, the blossoms beginning to push about the frosty ground, and the life breaking out of the branches that were stiff and dry all through the winter, proclaim truth as the Psalmist was contemplating when he spoke thus. He looks around, and everywhere sees the signature of a loving divine hand. The earth is full to brimming of Thy mercy. A deeper faith than most men have is needed to feel thus. For sadly many of us the world has come to be very empty of God, and we rather hear the creaking of the wheels of a machine, or see the workings of impersonal force, than hear the sound of His going or catch the gleam of His garment. But all the growth of physical knowledge may be accepted thankfully, and yet beneath all we may see the living will and work of God...


But when we include ourselves in 'the earth,' a different aspect is presented. The sunny play of gladness is shadowed: 'I am a stranger upon earth.' Man is out of joint with the great whole, out of tune with the concert, the only hungry guest at the feast. All other creatures fit their environment, and it them, like a glove on a hand; but we...have burdens of toil and care, are cursed with forecast and saddened by remembering, and torn with desires. 'We look before and after, and pine for what is not.' And the more we see that the earth is full of God's mercy, the more we feel that we need something more than the 'mercy' of which the earth is full, to make us as completely blessed as the lowest little life that crawls or buzzes about us.


"Hide not Thy commandments from me.' The only thing that will give us rest and blessedness to the height of our capacity is that we should have the knowledge and will of God. If we delight to do His will, and lay ourselves beneath the mould of God's impressing purpose to be shaped as He will, then care and toil and sorrow and restlessness and the sense of transiency and the sorrow of homelessness cease to pain. Like some black cliff, smitten by sunrise into rosy and golden glory, the ills of life are tinted and glorified, when the light of God's recognized will falls on them...


With His will in our hearts we can cease to feel that it is sad to be strangers and sojourners here, for we then can say, 'We seek a better country, that is an heavenly.'...


If the thought, 'I am a stranger upon earth,' teaches us our need of God's commandments, the thought, 'The earth is full of Thy mercy,' assures us that we shall receive what we need. He who opens His hand and satisfies the desires of every living thing will not leave us to sit, the only hungry ones at His table."



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