Many of you have graduated this past summer. Some will go on to college, others to the work place. Who will be your companions? Where will you seek them? What difference does it make? May the Psalmist’s confession be ours: “I am a companion of all that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts.”
Many of you have had Christian classmates in the schools you have attended as well as Christian friends in the church. But now, as you move on, who will be your companions at college or the workplace? However, our text does not speak in the past tense (those I had as companions) or in the future tense (whom I will have as companions). Rather, the Psalmist speaks in the present tense: “I am a companion of all that fear thy name…” This is a confession to God! “I am a companion of all that fear thee, that keep thy precepts.”
What is it that sets the basis who our companions are? We find the answer in the first line of this section of the Psalm (vs. 57), “Thou art my portion O Lord: I have said that I would keep thy word.” What is a portion? It is an inheritance that is given to us. It is the land that was given to each tribe of Israel when they entered the land of Canaan and the plot of land given to each family within the tribe. But it was not merely the land. God dwelt in the midst of Canaan, and God’s presence and glory spread forth throughout the land. There David is able to say, “Thou art my portion, O Lord…” So my first question to you is this, Is Jehovah your portion? Is he precious to you? Is your inheritance that God has numbered you with his people?
The word companion is a word that does not merely mean “friend”. The idea of “companion” is someone that you are tied to, bound to with rope or chains, someone to whom you are connected by strong bands or cords. This is true of the wicked and also true of God’s people. In Psalm 119:61 we read, “the bands of the wicked have robbed me…” They are banded together in their love for sin and ambition to snare God’s people into their sins. But for the righteous, to be a companion is a covenant relationship. The psalmist is extolling and confessing to God that he is bound to all the members of God’s church. Because we are bound to God in Christ Jesus, we are bound together as members of his body. We are bound in the Holy Spirit. We are bound in faith and in love. The Spirit of Christ has bound us and united us to Christ, and therefore to other saints.
We need companions, and we need to be companions. God saw that in his creation and showed it to Adam before he gave Eve to him. Of marriage, we read in Malachi 2:14, “…yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.” Those with whom we unite ourselves and devote time and devotion to must be those who love God. Those are the ones we love and to whom we are drawn. We must ask the question, “What is the basis for the companions that I have?” Are my reasons selfish or fleshly when I band together, or is it the fear and love of God? Is that primary to you? Is that primary as you seek a life mate? Is that primary as you make friends? Is that primary as you engage in activities? You do not want to do anything that would detract from God’s glory or lead you into sin.
This companionship is all-embracing. Notice that the psalmist confesses, “A companion I am of all that fear Jehovah.” That means that we are not embarrassed to belong to the church. We are not embarrassed to walk with God’s people. Oh, they are all different. Some are more pleasant than others, but they all bear the image of him whom we love, our Lord Jesus. So we encourage one another, admonish one another, visit and help one another, and pray for one another. This does not mean that you will not have some closer companions than others; even Jesus did. John refers to himself as the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” Jesus would single out Peter, James, and John to accompany him on the Mount of Transfiguration and later remain with him in the garden of Gethsemane. But we count all of God’s saints our companions with whom we delight to spend time and devotion. If something happens to drive a wedge between, we do all in our power to remove it.
But in this confession, our companionship is also all-exclusive. Negatively, we are not a companion of everyone. We are not companions of those who hate God, those who are disobedient and rebellious against God and his Word. Oh no, we are not companions with them in our dating, marriage, friendships, or activities. That does not mean that you do not work with unbelievers, or that we are unfriendly toward ungodly neighbors. It is impossible when you go on to college or find a place of employment that there are no ungodly persons there. But working alongside of them or taking a class with them does not make you a companion of them. We need a note of warning–some of those people who do not love the Lord will be interesting people. Maybe you share natural interests with them, or you find them fun to be around. If their speech or actions shows that they do not love the Lord, then you are playing with fire if you have an unbiblical relationship with them.
“I am a companion of all that fear thee…” What difference does it make who your companions are? First, because of our sinful natures, ungodly persons will be detrimental to our faith and walk. It is more likely that ungodly friends will influence us rather than we will be able to influence them for good. Second, we live in a world that is at odds with us and our faith, and Satan lies in wait for us as a roaring lion to devour. Because the road on earth is long and difficult, it is important that we have Christian companions who will help and encourage us in our lives to live godly. Third, this opposition is becoming more and more intense. Notice verse. 61: “the bands of the wicked have robbed me.” Therefore, it is good to walk in the company of fellow saints.
I have entitled this article, “Choosing our Companions”. I will get back to that but notice that this confession of the psalmist is not a confession of what we do, but what God in his grace has done for us. Just as we speak of marriage as “a marriage made in heaven”, so also our being a companion of all that fear the Lord is a due to the Lord’s electing love, his work of giving us to Jesus Christ to be saved, and our being made a living member of Christ’s church. Do you see that we are given a place in God’s church by our Triune God? The Father has chosen us, Christ Jesus has redeemed us, and the Holy Spirit dwells in us and sanctifies us as God’s peculiar people. There is no pride that we have made good choices, but God in his grace has been good to us. He has united us to Christ. He unites us to those who fear him. He gives us grace to forgive one another as he has forgiven us. He enables us to be long-suffering, patient, kind, and generous to one another. It is all of grace.
While God has done this wonderful thing, united us to believers, the company of saints, it is possible for us to sinfully unite ourselves with those who do not love God. Do you need examples? Good King Jehoshaphat willingly joined wicked King Ahab in a battle against their common enemy, and God rebuked him. King Solomon joined himself in marriages to many wicked wives who ensnared him in sin. That is why we need the admonitions that come to us in 2 Corinthians 6:14ff. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? So, we do daily choose who we take as those who are close to us and influence us for good or bad. By God’s grace we say no to sin and ungodly folks and yes to those who love God and desire to live and serve him.
So again I ask, “Who are your companions? Who are those whom you delight to be with and interact with? Are they those whom God has given to you in Christ Jesus? Or are you, for sinful reasons, choosing friends who will not help you in your pilgrimage but who would lead you astray? By God’s grace may our confession to God be, “A companion I am to all who fear thee.”
* Rev. Spriensma is pastor of Byron Center Protestant Reformed Church in Byron Center, MI.