When the Day is Done
“As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness.”—Psalm 17:15
The potency of a whistle or bell is nowhere better illustrated than in the pouring streams of humanity from factory and mine, office and shop, as the day’s work has come to a close. Streets and roads are crowded, traffic is congested, and the state of rush and hustle is terrific. It would seem that life in all its intricacies had broken a main spring and had begun to unravel—but it is just “quitting time.”
Soon normalcy will be regained and the wheels of activity will resume a natural trend but not for long. The next day, the same situation is created, and the next, and still the next. Apparently man’s work is NEVER done. Tired of his toil, he longs for a period of rest after the whistle blows; weary of the weight of duty, he looks for diversion; cumbered with constant care and concern, he must relax. But the momentum scarcely can be curbed. It seems the strain knows no letup.
The hand of responsibility thrusts all, sooner or later, into the throes of almost constant motion—but it is not perpetual. There will be a cessation of activity—someday—an eternal one. It may be SOON. The Lord Jesus revealed on one occasion that “the night cometh when no man can work” (John 9:4). Yes, there will be a quitting time for all. For the Christian, instead of the whistle signaling the time, it will be the trumpet; instead of the rumble, it will be the rapture; instead of being caught in the crowds, we will be caught up in the clouds; instead of resuming the daily grind, it will be the rest of eternal bliss. We shall not return to our tools or to our task. Complete or incomplete, we must leave it as it stands at “quitting time.” That time is approaching. At least, it is inevitable.
Just as the laborer looks beyond the grind of industry for relaxation at home, even so David looked beyond the grave for rest in heaven, for there remaineth a rest for the people of God when at evening the sun goeth down on life’s little day.
Our text not only conveys the personal testimony of the psalmist, but it also presents a celestial hope for all believers, a hope that is certain to be realized. The suggestions involved are most profound. They touch upon and lead us into such matters as resurrection, glorification and eternal satisfaction. The statement was the outburst of firm confidence and the reflection of clear perception. It becomes all the more sacred to us when we recall that it was communicated from his own trusting heart to the loving heart of God in solemn and reverent prayer.
The implicitness of his hope and the pleasure of his outlook are deeply inspiring, but the words “as for me” indicate another class of human pilgrims and earthly toilers. As for them, the outlook is dark and there is no horizon of brightly beaming hope. David, time and time again, had counseled such to “trust in the Lord.” Many of course, never choose to heed such advice, so the Bible must differentiate between the “whosoever-wills” and the “whosoever-won’ts.” The line of demarcation is distinct and definite in this now-age; in eternity, impassable, even unchangeable. Abraham said to the rich man who died, as did believing Lazarus, “Lazarus is comforted and thou art tormented; and beside this, between us and you, there is a great gulf fixed, so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us that would come from thence” (Luke 16:25-26).
What a strengthening inspiration it must have been to Israel’s Sweet Singer to know that he would one day, beyond all shadow of doubt, see the face of the Lord in righteousness. It must have lightened his burden many times. It surely encouraged his heart when his oppressors rose against him. It can do as much for God’s people in any day, under any circumstances. We, too, may joyfully anticipate the day when we shall see Him for ourselves and not another, when faith shall give way to sight. But can we conceive the blissful thought of complete and everlasting satisfaction?
We, in times past, have wearied ourselves in the unceasing attempt to get satisfaction, but it avoided us. “I tried the broken cisterns, Lord, but, ah! their waters failed. E’en as I stooped to drink, they fled, and mocked me as I wailed.” We were not satisfied with our attainments. We were not satisfied with our position. We were not satisfied with our opportunities. We were not satisfied with God’s wonderful plan for our lives. There was a constant exertion, a continuous grasping, and an endless longing. What we wanted, what our souls craved, was beyond our grasp. Has the situation changed in your life? Favored indeed is the one who enters the New Year with the confident testimony “Now, none but Christ can satisfy. No other name for me. There is life, and joy, and lasting peace, Lord Jesus, found in Thee.”
The psalmist never seemed to lose sight of the fact that one day he would close his eyes upon the fading things of Earth. He knew the time of his exit would come. He anticipated the departure with the impelling, heart-thrilling joy that he would awaken in a new sphere and with a new fashion—the likeness of his own blessed Lord. Examine all the Utopian theories that men have conjured up in their minds and penned in their books. None, not a single one, can begin to approximate what heaven holds for the men of earth who catch the vision, believe its promise and await its glorious fulfillment.
Someone has called upon us to “think of stepping on shore and finding it heaven; of taking hold of a hand and finding it God’s hand; of breathing a new air and finding it celestial air; of feeling invigorated and finding it immortality; of facing from the storm and tempest and finding an unknown calm; of waking up and finding it HOME.” What a catastrophe of infinite proportions to miss heaven! Our joy of being there should be equaled by our desire for others to join us in the Blessed Hope.
“Quitting time” is certain to come for all of us. Every day is “quitting time” for certain ones the world over. It will be “quitting time” today for many soldiers on the far-flung battle fronts. Down will go their guns. Others must step into the ranks. It has been “quitting time” this past year for some of our loved ones, for some of our friends. We are told that five thousand move out of time into eternity every passing hour. Some act and acquire as though they expect to stay here forever, but they cannot. They must go on.
“I shall see his face in righteousness; I shall be like him,” said the psalmist. This is the most invigorating hope that Earth can know. It means that man may leave the Earth for heaven. And why is this possible? Because the Lord left heaven for Earth. Here is the Christmas story in brief. Here is the fulfillment of Jacob’s ladder vision. Here is the fact that gives validity and value to the hope. Here is the New Year’s encouragement. We do not know what is ahead of us in the journey, but we know what awaits us at the journey’s end.
The term, “as for me,” in the text marks the whole statement as a personal matter. It is not so much an expression of desire as it is an explanation of delight—an assured hope, with its time of fulfillment keenly anticipated. He speaks of a time when he will stand face to face with the Lord. He rejoices in the time that will bring him a glorified body and present him in a new sphere—a sphere of glory and grandeur. This is a sustaining outlook as one forges into the future, especially amid the uncertainties of this present world crisis.
“Quitting time” for you, for me—the time of our departure from this world—may not be signaled by a whistle or a bell, but the time must come. Ere we go, we must make sure, whatever else we do, that we have appropriated God’s way, that we have embraced His plan by faith. Then ours shall be, with the psalmist, an outlook of encouraging hope—only glory by and by—eternal satisfaction.