Category Archives: Lessons from Psalms

Allegory of Herbert’s “Love (III)”

I’ve been going through some of my old college notes and came across this essay that I originally wrote as partial fulfillment of Dr. Horton’s Literary Criticism class in October 2001. This poem reminds me so much of Psalm 23 and is still one of my all-time favorites. I hope you’ll enjoy the poem and the analysis.

“Love (III)” by George Herbert

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lack’d any thing.

A guest, I answer’d, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord, but I have marr’d them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.

Thesis: George Herbert’s “Love (III)” is an allegory of spiritual conversion.

I. “Love” and His actions allegorize God’s part of salvation.

A. God’s initial call to salvation is allegorized by Love’s welcoming the soul and drawing near to him.
B. God’s continued working in the soul is allegorized by Love leading the soul by the hand.
C. God’s free offer of an abundant life is allegorized by the Lord’s paying the debt and inviting the soul to “sit down” and “taste . . . meat” as a guest.

II. The “soul” and his responses allegorize man’s response to God’s call.

A. Man’s initial rejection but tacit interest is allegorized by the soul drawing back because of sin but still entering in.
B. Man’s desire to be saved is allegorized by the soul recognizing his desire to be a guest.
C. Man’s feelings of hopelessness are allegorized by the soul’s realizations of his own unworthiness and his own deserving of hell.
D. Man’s full trust and benefits of salvation are allegorized by the soul choosing to “sit and eat.”

Essay: “Allegory of ‘Love (III)'”

The great religious poet George Herbert wrote many poems using symbolism and allegory to relay his own evangelical protestant beliefs. Herbert’s greatest work is “The Temple,” a collection of religious poems concluding with “Love (III).” Many critics interpret this final poem to be an allegory of receiving communion. In relation to the preceding poem in the series, “Heaven,” this does not seem to be the best interpretation. Also, this poem is a description of a private occasion, rather than a public one. There is no mention of other guests or observers. George Herbert’s “Love (III) is more likely an allegory of spiritual conversion.

“Love” and His actions allegorize God’s part of salvation. God’s initial call to salvation is allegorized by Love’s welcoming the soul and drawing near to him. God continues His work, through Love, by “sweetly questioning” the soul. He takes the “hand” of the beloved and gently leads him to His home. Love is pictured as a gracious host who shows unmerited favor to His guest. God’s free offer of an abundant life is allegorized by the Lord’s paying the debt and inviting the soul to “sit down” and “taste . . . meat” as a guest. If this poem were an allegory of communion, the host would be the priest, and the recipient would kneel rather than “sit.” Love uses rehtorical questions to confirm Himself as the Great Creator and Cleanser who “made the eyes” and “bore the blame” of the soul’s shameful sin.

The “soul” and his responses allegorize man’s response to God’s call. Man’s initial rejection but latent interest is allegorized by the soul’s drawing back because of sin but still entering in. The “first entrance in” implies at least curiosity on the soul’s part. Man’s desire to be saved is allegorized by the soul’s recognizing his desire to be a “guest.”

When asked by Love what the soul “lack’d,” the only response was to be “worthy” of being His “guest.” In the Anglican Church, receivers of Communion had to prove themselves worthy of the ordinance. This, however, is not the case here with the soul. The soul does not have to prove his worth; he merely claims the unmerited favor of God. Man’s feelings of hopelessness and total depravity are allegorized by the soul’s realizations of his own unworthiness and his own deserving of hell.

In the first stanza, the “soul drew back” because he knew he was “guilty of dust and sin.” When Love tells the soul he will be “a guest,” the soul questions Love in startled unbelief, “I the unkind, ungrateful?” The soul feels unworthy to look on Love with his “marr’d” eyes.

The soul then realizes his reasonable duty is service, but Love responds, “You must sit down,” implying that Love will serve the soul. Man’s full trust and benefits of salvation are allegorized by the soul choosing to “sit and eat.” The doctrine of God’s irresistible grace is inferred here as the soul finally succumbs to “sit” after initially resisting God’s call. The guest does not merely “taste” God’s meat but sits down to “eat.” While communion offers a small portion of bread and wine, salvation offers fulfillment and satiety.

That the allegory is of spiritual conversion in “Love (III)” is clearly a better interpretation than that of allegorizing the ordinance of Communion. Although parts of the poem may relate to communion, they only do so as communion on earth symbolizes the believers’ future communion with God in heaven. Only by the love of God may any of us receive salvation and be able to commune with Him.

Psalm 62 – Aaron Keyes and Stuart Townend

This song has been a refreshment to my soul in recent months. It’s hard to listen to without lifting hands to Heaven in praise. My soul finds rest in God alone!

“1 For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. 2 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. 3 How long will all of you attack a man to batter him, like a leaning wall, a tottering fence? 4 They only plan to thrust him down from his high position. They take pleasure in falsehood. They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse. Selah

“5 For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. 6 He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. 7 On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. 8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.  Selah

“9 Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath. 10 Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them. 11 Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, 12 and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For you will render to a man according to his work.” (Psalm 62, ESV)

Psalm the Second

Reading: Psalm 2, ESV

Verses 1-3 remind me of a saying that Ken Collier (President of the Wilds Christian Camp and Conference Center in Brevard, NC) used to say, “We do what we do and we say what we say because we think what we think. We think what we think because we believe what we believe about God, about God’s Word, and about ourselves.”  Here’s the passage from Psalms: “Why do the nations rage [emotions] and the peoples plot [or “imagine”: think] in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves [will: action], and the rulers take counsel together [think and speak], against the Lord [God] and against his Anointed [dual meaning of King David and Jesus], saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us [action].” The people believed they were more important than Jesus, and that drove their thoughts, which drove their words and ultimately their actions. They rose up against God [and God’s anointed King David].

But how does God respond? Read verses 4-6. He just laughs. He knows their power and will and emotion is futile against him. But he is also angry and displeased at their choose to elevate themselves against him. We’re not far off in our nation today: we have a culture that believes “It’s all about me,” and they forsake and even fight against God–even the existence of God. But God is real and powerful, more powerful than we can imagine. Fortunately for us, he’s also good. Verse 6 tells us that he sets up Jesus as King of Kings. As Charles Spurgeon writes in his Treasury of David, “Jesus sits upon the throne of grace, and the / throne of power in the midst of his church” (vol. 1, pp. 11-12). But yet we put up our fists as if to fight with God.

In verses 7-9, God declares Jesus to be His Son, the Divine Godhead. He declares Himself as owner of everything, with the power to destroy. So, it is with no surprise in verses 10-12 that He pleads with the kings of the earth to be wise–rethink your actions and beliefs, and be willing to be teachable–and turn to Christ, to grace, to truth, to freedom in trusting. All those who trust Him are promised blessing.

“Have we a share in this blessedness? Do we trust in him? Our faith may be slender as a spider’s thread; but if it be real, we are in our measure blessed. The more we trust, the more fully shall we know this blessedness. We [may] therefore  close the Psalm with the prayer of the apostles:–‘Lord, increase our faith'” (Spurgeon, Treasury of David, vol.1, p. 13).

Thanksgiving Medley

The Hasty Sisters sing the Doxology:

The Huron Sisters sing I Sing the Mighty Power of God:

CRCWorship presents a Thanksgiving Medley which includes “We Gather Together,” “For the Beauty of the Earth,” and “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come”:

“The Thanksgiving Song” by Mary Chapin Carpenter:

Psalm 100:1-5 ~ “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, He is God! It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name! For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.”

Happy Thanksgiving from My Journey To Lean! 

Psalm the First

Reading: Psalm 1, ESV.

Thoughts in quotes from Charles Spurgeon’s The Treasury of David (

Verse 1: “Blessed” – “we may well regard it (as Ainsworth does) as a joyful acclamation of the gracious man’s felicity” (I.1).

Verse 2: “To him [the righteous] the ways of piety [devotion, worship] are paths of peace and pleasantness. His footsteps are ordered by the Word of God, and not by the cunning and wicked devices of carnal men” (I.1). I am reminded by this of media around us daily, subtly influencing our thinking when not carefully guarded by the filter of the Word.

‘His delight is in the law of the Lord.’ He is not under the law as a curse and condemnation, but he is in it, and he delights to be in  it as the rule of life…. He takes a text and carries it with him all day long; and in the night-watches, when sleep forsakes his eyelids, he museth upon the Word of God.” (I.2).

“In David’s day, how small was the volume of inspiration, for they had scarcely anything save the first five books of Moses! How much more, then, should we prize the whole written Word which it is our privilege to have in a ll our houses! But alas, what ill-treatment is given to this angel from heaven! We are not all Berean searchers of the Scriptures…. Perhaps some of you can claim a sort of negative purity, because you do not walk in the way of the ungodly; but let me ask you–Is your delight in the law of God? Do you study God’s Word? Do you make it the man of your right hand–your best companion and hourly guide? If not, this blessing belongeth not to you” (I.2).

“Hence it is not only a love of the law, but that loving delight in the law which no prosperity, nor adversity, nor the world, nor the prince of it, can either take away or destroy; for it victoriously bursts its way through poverty, evil report, the cross, death, and hell, and in the midst of adversities, shines the brightest. —Martin Luther” (I.5).

“Meditation chews the cud, and gets the sweetness and nutritive value of the Word into the heart and life… —Bartholomew Ashwood’s Heavenly Trade, 1688″ (I.6).

“It [meditation] assists the memory to lock up the jewels of divine truth in her sure treasury. It has a digesting power, and turns special truth into spiritual nourishment; and lastly, it helps the renewed heart to grow upward and increase its power to know the things which are freely given to us of God. —Condensed from Nathaniel Ranew, 1670″ (I.7).

Verse 3: “The man who delights in God’s Word, being taught by it, bringeth forth patience in the time of suffering, faith in the day of trial, and holy joy in the hour of prosperity,” “We must not always estimate the fulfillment of a promise by our own eye-sight,” and “It is not outward prosperity which the Christian most desires and values; it is soul prosperity which he longs for” (I.2). “Whatsoever he doeth shall prosper”: this is not due to our hard work or will or wit but to the working of the Word.

“‘A tree planted by the rivers of water.’–This is an allusion to the Eastern method of cultivation, by which rivulets of water are made to flow between the rows of trees, and thus…, the trees receive a constant supply of moisture” (I.7).

Verse 4: “‘Driveth away,’ or tosseth away; the Chaldee translateth for ‘wind,’ ‘whirlwind.’ —Henry Ainsworth, 1639. This shows the vehement tempest of death, which sweeps away the soul of the ungodly” (I.8). — This wind is more destructive than a strong breeze; it is more like a tornado.

Verse 6: “His [the ungodly man’s] way of pleasure, of pride, of unbelief, of profanity, of persecution, of procrastinating, of self-deception, etc.; all these shall come to an end” (I.9). This too shall pass but God shall not!

Whole Psalm: “Albeit the ungodly make a show in the world of being happy, yet they of all men are most miserable. —Sir Richard Baker, 1640″ (I.4).

Heart Check: “We long to be in the company of those we love” (I.9). Am I as excited about a visit with the Lord and His Word as I am about a visit with a loved one (parent, grandparent, friend) who lives afar? Am I as eager to host the Lord in my heart as I am to entertain or host earthly friends or company in my house?

Renewing a Passion for the Word

I must admit I have been having a difficult time consistently being in the Word. I have been letting busyness and distractions win out and have neglected what’s most important. Sitting on my couch the other day, I turned around and saw Charles Spurgeon’s The Treasury of David: Classic Reflections on the Wisdom of the Psalms. I remembered loving these writings in college and thought they might be a good place to renew my passion for the Word.

Then yesterday, my friend Jessica (society sister, college prayer partner, and present day missionary) posted a quote from a Pastor States on Facebook: “Did not Job, after his suffering, his questioning, his loss, find that God was enough? Where is the boredom in contemplating Jesus Christ? Where is the weariness of reading His word or of communing with Him? Nevertheless, when we do it only out of duty, our service, worship, and life become a sham, He is not honored nor feared. May God help us!” This quote convicted, rebuked, and inspired me.

So this morning, as I was waiting for Bryan to get home from work, I curled up with a cup of espresso and grabbed the first volume of The Treasury of David. I began with the Preface and was rebuked even in that. Spurgeon wrote these volumes during a time of illness that kept him out of the pulpit. He writes, “I would have preached had I been able, but as my Master denied me the privilege of thus serving him, I gladly availed myself of the other method of bearing testimony for his name. O that he may give me fruit in this field also, and his shall be all the praise.” Even Spurgeon could not always serve God as he desired, and so he creatively served Him as he was able with the opportunities the Lord presented him. This has great application for all of us who struggle with desiring to serve God in one way but being presented with an opportunity to serve God in a way we least expected. It has application for the unemployed and underemployed, for the barren and the widow, for the sick and those waiting for a change in station or location. Wherever you are and with whatever God has given at this time, serve Him with all of it and let Him use it as He will.

This too is my prayer–that God will use me where I am with the opportunities that I have while I have them, that I will live gratefully in the present with the overshadowing hope of the future glory with Christ and not miss opportunities because I am longing for something other than what God has provided, that I will passionately consume myself with the Word as if in a fire, and that that Word will dwell in me richly and exude from me, that the Gospel may be furthered and that the God of Grace may be glorified.