THOSE WHO COME TO THE ALTAR BEING THE HELPLESS ONES
The sparrow and the swallow are not only small but also without a definite dwelling place and safeguard. Furthermore, they have nothing to turn to or rely on. This was another feeling the psalmist had. He felt that in this universe he had no one to turn to or rely on. He could only find rest and joy at the altar. Everyone who comes to the cross has the sense that in the universe he has no one whom he can trust and on whom he can rely. If a person feels that he has someone or something to depend on, then the cross has lost its place in him. He has lost the real taste and feeling of the cross. Most of the time people experience the cross not when they are restful but when they are feeling completely helpless. Psalm 102 shows us this in the situation of the sparrow. Brought by God into a situation of helplessness, the sparrow waits for God in the night.
THE ALTAR BEING THE REAL RESTING PLACE OF A CHRISTIAN
The psalmist felt that at the altar he had a resting place, just like a swallow finding a nest where she can lay her young. According to the psalmist’s feeling, the altar—typifying the Lord’s cross, which took away man’s sins and removed all the problems between man and God, thereby enabling God to gain man—is a place of rest to those who come to God. On the earth our real rest and satisfaction is our experience of the cross. When we experience the cross, the cross becomes our place of rest. Therefore, the work of the cross in dealing with sins, in consecration, and in breaking us is altogether for us to gain satisfaction and rest so that we may have a sense of sweetness. This is the true rest of a Christian.
THE ALTAR BEING THE PLACE FOR THE MULTIPLICATION OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE
The emphasis of the sparrow is on its helplessness and worthlessness. The emphasis of the swallow is on her laying her young in the nest. This is a type of our caring for those who are younger than we are for the multiplication of life. In chapter one of the Song of Songs the Lord tells those who follow Him not to forget to pasture their young goats by the shepherds’ tents (v. 8b). This also corresponds to Psalm 84, which says that not only do we ourselves find rest at the altar, but we can also “lay our young” there for the multiplication of our spiritual life. Through the preaching of the gospel we must “lay our young” by bringing sinners to the cross of Christ to produce spiritual children.
Psalm 84:4 says, “Blessed are those who dwell in Your house.” Verse three speaks about the altar, and verse four speaks about the house of Jehovah. This means that only those who come to the altar can come into the house of Jehovah.
THE ALTAR BEING THE CROSS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
The altar is the cross in the New Testament. Only those who know the cross can know God. Regrettably, many people do not have a sufficiently clear knowledge of the cross. Thus, their contact with God is not very deep. The cross accomplished several things. First, it dealt with man’s sins. Second, it dealt with all persons, things, and matters. Third, it dealt with our very being so that God could gain our entire being.
Everyone who has passed through the work of the cross will experience two results. On the one hand, he will have a place of rest. The place of rest for a Christian is in his experience of the cross. On the other hand, he will bear fruit. Psalm 84:3 shows us that not only does the sparrow find a resting place at the altar, but the swallow also finds a nest there where she may lay her young. John 15 shows us that in order to bear fruit the branches must pass through the cross. Without the experience of the cross, there will be no fruit. The unfruitful Christian will suffer a great loss before God, because the Lord said that every branch that does not bear fruit shall be taken away (v. 2). This is very serious.
(Being Apt to Teach and Holding the Mystery of the Faith, Chapter 7, by Witness Lee)