MYSTERY AND BENEDICTION
“Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself, 0 God of Israel, the Saviour.”—Isaiah 45:15
IN the nature of God, in the book of God, in the government of God, how many hidden things there are which I have no skill to unravel! It is well that there should be. The mysteries both glorify Him and educate me. It is good to walk with God in the dark!
When the sun rises on my soul, He hides Himself. Quietly, unseen by others, perhaps unobserved by myself, He changes all my beliefs and loves and habits. It is like the daybreak, which comes without observation. It is like the spring of the year, which will be with me before I know. It is like the resurrection of Jesus, taking place in the grey dawn.
And while my day is running its course, He hides Himself. He is with me always, but there is much to try me in His procedure. My holiness progresses slowly. My experience is filled with fluctuation and vicissitude. My sorrows tread fast on the heels of my joys. “Now the blessed Polycarp suffered martyrdom on the seventh day before the Kalends of May, Statius Quadratus being proconsul, but Jesus Christ being King for ever “—so the old letter ran. Yes, Jesus Christ is King for ever, even if my life looks martyrdom to me.
And when the evening shadows fall round me, He hides Himself. For my body there is the dark grave. For my spirit there is life in His presence, yet not the full life which will begin on the morning of the resurrection. Still, He will be with me in paradise as well as in heaven ; and at last He will lead both body and spirit to the glory as of seven days.
However God hide Himself, He is my Saviour.
THE COMFORT OF GOD’S NAME
“Jehovah-Jireh—the Lord will provide.”—Gen. 22:14
And what does He provide?
Bread when I am hungry. It seems natural to begin there. He has a care for my body as well as for my soul. He is not anxious certainly that I should have wealth or distinction or the means of indulgence and display. But, if I trust Him, I shall get enough for comfort if not enough for luxury, enough to rid me from unworthy solicitude if not enough to free me from wholesome dependence and continuous faith. Every modest and present want He is sure to satisfy.
Help when I am helpless—that, too, the Lord will provide. Is it the discipline of my own inner life? Is it the conquest of others for my Saviour? Is it the leavening of the world with truth and grace? I am sufficient for none of these things. Sometimes my road is rough, sometimes it is steep, sometimes it is dark, sometimes it is slippery. My heart whispers discouragement. My will says, ” This at least is quite beyond me.” But, when I come to the place, I find that God Himself has solved my difficulties and puts to flight my fears.
And salvation when I am burdened with sin—this also, this best of all, my Lord will provide. It was a lamb for sacrifice which Jehovah-Jireh prepared on the bare summit of Moriah. And in the end of the days, on the green hill of Calvary, close beside Moriah, a better Lamb died by divine appointment and made reconciliation for my iniquity. In the presence of such a sacrifice, how full my joy should be! Jesus breaks every fetter, unbars every door, forgives every debt.
Because of my weakness, because of my strait, I am in the Mount, and in the Mount the Lord will be seen.
HE CALLS HIMSELF A LAMB
“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”—John 1:29.
WHAT sorrow, what sweetness, what glory, encircle the head of the Lamb of God! He is the Lamb of Sacrifice. “His blood so red for me was shed.” Priest as well as Victim, Shepherd as well as Lamb, He offered Himself in my room, without spot and blemish. He assumed my misery, and reaped the harvest I had sown — a mournful harvest of guilt and woe. His unsullied and stainless life He gave freely, cheerfully, for my forfeited and outcast and ruined life. Oh, how He loves!
He is the Lamb of Deliverance. I remember that ancient type of my Redeemer and Lord—the Lamb of the Passover. It was slain; its life-blood was sprinkled on the door-post; and the family within was safe. Azrael, the dark-winged angel of death with the sharp sword in his hand, had no condemnation for them. So, behind the merit and the grace, the atonement and the intercession and the human-divine Person of Jesus, I take my stand, and I am free.
He is the Lamb of whitest purity. There is no spot in Him; He is all-fair. And, as I abide with Him, as I meditate on Him, as I trust in Him, old things pass away with me; I grow in grace; the meekness and the patience and the beauty of God’s Lamb begin to be seen in my life too ; upward and heavenward and Christward I mount. It is no longer I who live but He who lives in me; He has taken from me my nature, and He is giving me His.
So, this day and every day, there is for me ” none other Lamb, none other name.”
“But this one thing I do.”—Ph1l. 3:13
MINE be the Pauline oblivion of the past. It is well to forget the things which are behind. If I remember too vividly former failures, the recollection will depress my soul and hamper my movements. If I remember too often former attainments, I shall grow contented and make no further progress. There is a tyranny of success as hurtful as the tyranny of defeat. And if I remember too constantly the modes of my religion hitherto, I shall look simply for a repetition of old experiences, instead of desiring fresh gifts. Yes, let me forget.
And mine be the Pauline aspiration towards the future. Like the runner in the chariot race, I should stretch forward to the things which are before. In front of me lie a fuller holiness, a larger likeness to Christ, a deeper humility, a more wide-reaching usefulness, the victory over death, the abundant entrance, the glory yet to be revealed. These things I must seek with the intensity which the man of the world carries into his business, the scholar into his studies, the explorer into his journeys and toils.
And mine be the Pauline endeavour in the present. Always let me be pressing toward the mark for the prize. Some sin I ought to put off every day ; some grace of the new nature I ought to put on. I must open my soul more absolutely to the Holy Ghost. Each hour must bring its work and its battle, its duty to be done, its prize to be gained. “Who would fail for a pause too early?” Ah, life is too solemn, too momentous, too earnest.
By forgetfulness, by expectation, by effort, I grow, I make progress in the pilgrim march, I climb nearer and nearer the summits of God’s snow-white Alps of purity.
THE HEART OF THE ETERNAL
“God is Love.” –1John 4:5
IT is a little flower which I pluck from the garden of St. John’s letter—this fragrant definition of God. Yet it suggests mysteries and miracles for which my intellect has no solution.
For it carries me away into the dateless years of eternity. Always Love has been God’s name ; always Love has summarised and crowned God’s nature. Deep in His heart it lay through these far-off years. But, even then, it cared for me, and foresaw my loss and bitterness and unrest and death. Long before my world was made, God, who is Love, was busy devising my salvation.
I look again at St. John’s rose-blossom, and I see a Cross on the Hill of Reproach. Love could not remain pent up in the breast of God. It must have egress and escape. It broke the confining barriers. The God of love, Plato said with unconscious prophecy, would be found one day lying on the city streets, shoeless, penniless, homeless. It is true of my God. He gave Himself for me. He became, in this apostle’s phrase, the Propitiation for my sins.
Again I lift St. John’s flower, and it awakens in me a glowing hope for myself. There is none so prevalent and powerful as this God of love. I welcome Him; and my heart is transfigured, my life is sublimed. I am changed into His image. I carry His superscription. I dwell myself in love. It becomes my atmosphere and my universe.
God is Love—Love indwelling, Love outflowing and suffering, Love melting and conquering and making all things new.
A PLEASANT SERIOUSNESS
“Be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long.”—Prov. xxiii. 17.
The fear of the Lord—it is a grand and significant Old Testament word. It depicts a state of mind and heart which might well be more manifest to-day, and which I must seek to cherish and foster within my own soul.
It is fear felt towards the Lord. Do I think, as much and as deeply as I should, of His dazzling and worshipful attributes? His justice cannot be tarnished. His holiness is without flaw. Before the splendour and awfulness of His majesty the angels veil their faces with their wings ; cherubim who know and seraphim who burn feel themselves unworthy as they stand adoring about His throne. He is a most pure Spirit, the old Confession says. His is the sevenfold radiance of divinity. Ah, He merits my reverence and my fear.
But it is also fear felt by the Lord. Many a year after Hebrew psalmists and prophets and sages had finished their course and borne their testimony, God lived and moved, laboured and wept and died, among men—God in the person of my Saviour Jesus Christ. And, when He was here, He knew well this sober and seemly grace. He was heard, the New Testament tells me, for His eulabeia—His godly fear. In my culture and habitual exercise of fear, I am in the best company. I hold fellowship with my Redeemer and my King.
So salutary a fear will deter me from sin. It will deepen my watchfulness and my holiness. It will increase my diligence. It will enable me, always and everywhere, to practise the presence of God. In many directions, at countless times, it will benefit my life. I should cultivate it more. There are shadows more to be desired than all the brilliance of the garish day.