Why am I not a wrecked and stranded vessel, like thousands before me? Here is the reason; "Yes, I have loved you. And that Sovereign love, as it is from everlasting, so is it to everlasting — endless in duration — enduring as eternity. The love of the creature is but of yesterday — it may be gone tomorrow — dried like a summer-brook when most needed. But the love of God is fed from the glacier summits — the everlasting hills. We may estimate its intensity, when the Savior could utter regarding it such a prayer as this, "That the love with which You have loved Me — may be in them.
Oh, amid the often misgivings of my own doubting heart, with its frames and feelings as vacillating as the shifting sand, let me delight to ponder this precious thought — the long line of unbroken love — every link love — connecting the eternity that is past with the eternity to come — God thinking of me before the birth of time — even then mapping out all my future happiness and heavenly bliss — and standing now, with the hoarded love of that eternity in His heart, seeking therewith to "draw" me! It is "the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us through Christ Jesus" — which is the moral gravitation-power of the cross, by which His true people have ever been drawn.
Show me Your loving-kindness thus enshrined and manifested in Your dear Son. Constrain me to love You in Him, because You have first loved, and so loved, me! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of Your wings. It is remarkable how often God's revealed thoughts have for their theme, the immutability of His covenant ; as if the contemplation of His own inviolable faithfulness formed the mightiest of all topics of comfort and consolation for His believing people.
Here He makes a solemn appeal to the constancy of the natural world — as a pledge and guarantee of His unchanging fidelity in spiritual things. Nothing seems so undeviating as the succession of day and night — the revolution of the seasons. The sun sinking at eventide in the golden west, and rising again like a giant refreshed.
In our motto-verse, using human language as a vehicle of Divine thought, He makes the challenge, 'If you can forbid that sun to rise — if you can put drags on his burning chariot wheels, and prevent him from setting — if you can forbid the moon to hang her silver lamp from the vault of night, or pluck the stars from their silent thrones — if you can transpose summer's heat and winter's cold — if you can make seed-time belie its promise to expecting autumn — then — but not until then, shall I break My covenant with My chosen servants!
I, the Lord, have spoken! It is delightful thus to look around us on the steadfast and unvarying sequences in the material universe, and to regard them as sacraments of grace — silent witnesses for the inviolability of God's word and promise. Nature , in her majestic constancy, becomes a temple filled with monuments, each bearing the inscription, "God who cannot lie! For the skies will disappear like smoke, and the earth will wear out like a piece of clothing. The people of the earth will die like flies — but My salvation lasts forever. My righteous rule will never end!
It is an "everlasting covenant, well-ordered in all things, and sure. Before one provision of that covenant can fail, immutability must first become mutable — and God Himself cease to be God! Standing on this "sure foundation," we can boldly utter the challenge, "Who is he that condemns? Universal nature , in the ceaseless hymn of her own constancy, proclaims and celebrates our covenant security and safety. Her four great evangelists , Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter — endorse the utterances of the inspired volume.
In the mouth of the two witnesses, "Day and Night," every word is established. Thus, with reference not only to the glory and wisdom and power of God — but to His purpose and promise of salvation for His people, "Day unto day utters speech; and night unto night shows knowledge. Here is what Cyprian calls "an ocean of thought — in a drop of language! Manifold and glorious are His thoughts regarding His people. But this is the center and focus of all — around which all the others cluster.
It is the jewel of which all the others are the setting — the thought of thoughts — the gift of gifts. We may well say, "How precious! There is no measuring that love; it defies all human computation. Christ Himself, in speaking of it, can only intimate its indescribableness. He puts the plumbline into the hand — but He does not attempt to gauge or fathom — all He can say of the precious thought and the precious love is, "God SO loved! Think of that love in the past — a love so great as to put into the lips of the Eternal Father the mysterious summons, "Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, and against the Man who is My Fellow — smite the Shepherd!
Think of that love when it culminated thus in its triumph on the cross. When God's "precious thoughts," had their solemn revealing and interpreter in "the precious blood of Christ. Think of it, too, as a love evoked by rebels — a love manifested towards the guilty and undeserving, and hell-deserving. History's noblest deed and record of love — is in the self devotion of one generous heathen, Pylades, who forfeited his life to save his friend — but "God commends His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!
And will He, in very deed, show us that? Yes, unveil that cross — and see! It was His only mode of showing us His heart! It is Infinite Love laboring to reveal itself — agonizing to utter the fullness of infinite love. Apart from that act — the boundless ocean of love would have remained forever shut up and concealed in the heart of God!
But now it has found an ocean-channel. Beyond this He cannot go. Once and forever the proof has been given — God is love. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways — and My thoughts higher than your thoughts! Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God — the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary — and His understanding no one can fathom! Here is a thought of desponding man — in contrast with a "thought of God. It is "Jacob," "Israel," — who are guilty of these unworthy complainings. They question the rectitude of His dispensations. Surely the Lord does not see my troubles, and God refuses to hear my case!
So thought Gideon in his hour of faithless despondency, when Israel had been ground down for seven years by the oppression of the Midianites, "If the Lord is with us — why then is all this befallen us? So thought David , in the wilds of Gilead, when, a broken-hearted exile, he repeated through his anguished tears, the challenge of his enemies, who continually said unto him, "Where is your God? So thought Asaph in his moments of guilty unbelief, when he saw the wicked prospering and the righteous suffering.
Misjudging and misinterpreting the divine procedure, "his steps had well-near slipped;" he "remembered God and was troubled;" and amid the misery of unbelieving thoughts, exclaimed, "Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? So thought Martha and Mary in the extremity of their grief, after they had sent prayer and messenger in vain, and were still left unsupported in their agony.
They had ever fondly trusted that mighty Heart of divine tenderness. But how could they trust it now, in these mysterious moments of blank despair? If He had indeed 'loved' them and their lost one — why could Jesus, "remain two days still in the same place where He was? Surely, was their hasty, unworthy surmise, 'our way is hidden from Him, He has passed over and overlooked our case and our cause! Go, Gideon , on your deliverance mission, trusting in My sure word; and out of weakness you shall be made strong, become valiant in fight, and turn to flight the armies of your enemy!
Go, fainting pilgrim of Gilead, take down your harp from the willows — sing the Lord's song even in that strange land, for He will soon turn your mourning into dancing, take off your sackcloth, and gird you with gladness! Go, mourning psalmist of the olden temple, "call to remembrance your song in the night," "commune with your own heart," and thus rebuke your peevish murmurings, "This is my infirmity — but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High God.
Go, mourning sisters of Bethany, go forth to meet the lingering steps of 'the Brother born for adversity. There are wise, though yet undeveloped reasons — which both you and the Church will yet learn to appreciate, for these two long days of unsupported sorrow. Imagine anything but this: Believer, trust the divine faithfulness in the dark! Trust His loving heart — where sight and sense fail to trace His mysterious hand! Think especially of the mighty God — yet Brother-man, who has left this last promise legacy, "Surely, I am with you always!
He is the true Moses on the mount, whose hands never grow heavy. Oh, amid the fainting and failing of what may be dearest to you in earthly love; may this be your sublime solace amid all trials and all changes: For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are but dust! What feelings on earth are to be compared, in depth and intensity, to those that link a parent to his children?
Has some member of his family been unjustly wronged? Many a man would willingly submit to unmerited injury and ridicule — bear in silence the tongue of calumny and slander, and receive in silence the arrows of unkindness — who could not rest thus unmoved under the affront or stigma attempted to be fastened on his child.
Or does the parent see his child in suffering? He could himself bear pain with comparative composure; but when he sees slow, torturing disease ploughing its furrows on the young cheek, and dimming the luster of the young eye — the iron enters into his soul; he would gladly even risk his own life — were that of his loved one endangered. Many a father has stood by an early grave, and said, through anguished tears, "I wish that I could have died — rather than you!
Behold, O believer, in the loving, pitying thoughts; and tender pitying deeds of the earthly parent — a picture and symbol of God's thoughts and God's love to you! No, more — He identifies Himself with the sufferings and wrongs of His children. Injure them — and you injure Him! He who touches them — touches the apple of His eye. He says, as David said to Abiathar, "Abide with me, for he who seeks your life, seeks my life — but with me you shall be in safeguard. When and where does this pitying love of God begin? And at this hour, too, is He pitying us — in our weakness, in our sorrows, in our temptations, in our difficulties, in our perplexities.
Many an earthly father can make only a little allowance for the weakness and feebleness of his offspring. Not so our heavenly Father. See how these same thoughts of pitying love, like the ivy clasping the battered ruin, cling even around His wayward, backsliding children, "Is not Israel still My son, My darling child? I had to punish him — but I still love him. I long for him and surely will have mercy on him.
Arise, go to your Father! He is waiting and willing to welcome you to His embrace. He asks elsewhere, in a passage which touchingly describes His thoughts His loving, paternal thoughts at work, "How shall I put you among the children? Jesus has opened a way of access to the heavenly household — and made us heirs to all these precious thoughts of a Father's heart!
Seated under Calvary's cross — we can exclaim in grateful transport, "How great is the love which the Father has lavished on us — that we should be called children of God! And that is what we really are! I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners.
We have here the utterance of God's thoughts to the bereft mourner. He who looked down of old on bondaged Israel, and thus unlocked the thoughts of His heart, "I know their sorrows;" He who, in a later age, watched from the mountainside the frail bark tossed in the midst of the lake, and hastened to the rescue of faithless disciples — says to each poor afflicted one, 'My thoughts are upon you! I have appointed your trial. I have decreed that early, or that unlooked-for grave.
Let faith trust Me in this dark hour, when fainting human nature may fail to comprehend the mystery of My dealings.
The successive clauses of this verse form a beautiful gradation. God "sees," He "heals," He "leads," He "comforts! He knows all my case, my character, my circumstances.
He alone can judge, as to the "needs-be" of trial. He has some wise reason for His discipline. He comes with the balm of His own heavenly consolation. When the wave of sorrow has answered the end for which it was sent, He says, "Thus far shall you go — and no farther! He does not inflict the heavy blow — and then forsake. He does not leave the shorn lamb to the un-tempered winds of trial.
The mother's love for her child is manifested, not at the moment only when it receives some severe injury — but in the subsequent nights of patient, tender care, and unwearying watchfulness. In the hour of sorrowing bereavement, many a precious revelation is made of a before unknown or hidden God. In wrestling like Jacob with the covenant Angel, the soul is often brought to feel for the first time, in that struggle-hour, His touch — the consciousness of a Presence, before dimly recognized, is now felt. Like 'Israel,' we may go 'halting' to our graves.
But the place of affliction is called by us to the last, "Peniel;" for there "we saw God face to face;" and from that hour we have journeyed on, sorrowful — yet always rejoicing. Let us cleave to this thought of sustaining comfort. Other thoughts of other hearts may have perished. Others that used to think of us, and to interchange thoughts with us — may now only greet us with mute smiles from their portraits on the wall.
The parent's arms that comforted us — may be moldering in the dust. The brook that once sang along its joyous music — may be silent and still — we gaze upon a dry and waterless channel. You are my Helper and my Savior. Do not delay, O my God. Surely if there is one way more than another, in which God's thoughts are not as man's thoughts, it is this — pardoning the rebel , welcoming the undeserving , forgiving and forgetting!
How we remember the sins and the failings of others! How we harbor the recollection of ingratitude or unkindness. We say, "I forgive — but I cannot forget. Forgiveness is with Him no effort; it is a delight, "The Lord is well pleased for His righteousness' sake. How can He thus forgive? How can the God who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity — cancel the handwriting that is against us in these volumes of transgression, so that they are remembered no more? It is through the atoning work of Jesus. Crimson sins, scarlet sins; sins against grace, love, warning, and privilege — see them all cast into the depths of the sea, never again to be washed on shore!
But we know of something purer — a human soul washed in the blood of Christ! It is, it can be — nothing He sees in us. No repentance, however sincere; no good works, however imposing or splendid. It is His own free sovereign grace! But He is God, and not man. Most wondrous chapter in the volume of God's thoughts — His full, free, unconditional, everlasting forgiveness of the guilty and undeserving! All the most gigantic thoughts of man, look poor and shabby after this.
God, the just God — yet the Savior — just, in justifying the ungodly. I accept the gracious overture of pardon. I joyfully repose on this thought of Your forgiving mercy. But I trust in the riches and graciousness of my Surety. Let Him free me, who became surety for me; who has taken my debt upon Himself.
Think of God, not only willing to blot out and bury in oblivion a guilty past — but hear Him giving the assurance that the legion-sins are already cancelled. The debt has been discharged — the wages paid. He makes it an argument for immediate return and acceptance, "I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, your transgressions, and, as a cloud, your sins! Return unto Me — for I have redeemed you! No more precious assurance can I have, than this — that I am under the constant, loving guidance of my heavenly Father — that He appoints the bounds of my habitation, and overrules all events for my good — that my whole life is a plan arranged by Him.
Every apparent little contingency, as well as every momentous turn and crisis-hour — forms part of that plan! It is "line upon line;" — or if need be, cross upon cross — trial upon trial. Or it may be that startling providences are no longer required — the gentle indications of His will are enough, "I will guide you with My eye. And HOW does He promise to teach and to guide? Not in the way that we would like to go — the way of our own choosing — but "the way which you shall go.
But God says, 'the rough mountain-track is best for you! But God's pillar-cloud decides otherwise, and takes us by a circuitous route "by the way of the wilderness. He led His people of old — He leads them still — by the right path. There is a day coming when, in the words of Augustine, "both vessel and cargo safe, and not a hair of our heads hurt — we reach the haven of our desire," we shall own the wisdom of every earthly lesson, the "needs-be" of every wave in the troubled sea!
The gardener has occasionally to subject his plants to apparently rough usage — cutting, lopping, mutilating; reducing them to unsightly shapes — before they burst into flower. Summer, however, before long, vindicates the wisdom of his treatment, in its clusters of varied fragrance and beauty. So also, at times, does our heavenly Gardener see fit to use His pruning-knife. But be assured there is not one superfluous or redundant lopping. We shall understand and acknowledge an infinitely wise necessity for all — when the plant has unfolded itself into the full flower, bathed in the tints and diffusing the fragrance of Heaven.
Believer, go up and on your way — rejoicing in the teaching and guidance of unerring Wisdom! Does not He who guards your life, know it? Yet it is this helpless, groveling "worm," which occupies 'the thoughts of God' — receives His sympathy, and has the assurance of His almighty aid. Believer, beaten down it may be, with a great fight of affliction, or trembling under a sense of your unworthiness and guilt — mourning the coldness of your faith, the lukewarmness of your love, the frequency of your backslidings, the fitfulness of your best purposes, and the feebleness of your best services — your God draws near to you — He remembers that though you are a worm — still you are "worm Jacob," — His own beloved, covenant one; and He tells that the thoughts which He thinks towards you, are "thoughts of peace, and not of evil.
Mark His message of comfort, "Do not be afraid! He loves to draw near to His people in the extremity of their weakness. Man would often crush the writhing worm under his feet — bid the trembling penitent away; but He whose thoughts are not as our thoughts, says, "Neither do I condemn you. Revere Him, all you descendants of Israel! For He has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; He has not hidden His face from him — but has listened to his cry for help! You drew near in the day that I called upon You — You said, Do not be afraid!
Seek to be humble. It is to the humble, that God 'gives grace. He received a new name, "as a prince, he had power with God, and prevailed. Be it mine to go in the strength of the Lord God. I the LORD do all these things! What a sad world this would be — were it governed by Fate! Were its blended lights and shadows, its joys and sorrows — the result of capricious accident — or blind and wayward chance!
How blessed to think that each separate occurrence which befalls me — is "a thought of God" — the fulfillment of His own immutable purpose! Is it the material world? It is He who "forms the light — and creates darkness " — who appoints the sun and moon for their seasons — who gives to the sea its decree — who watches the sparrow in its fall — who tends the lily in the field — and who paints the tiniest flower that blossoms in the meadow. Is it the moral world? All events are predetermined and prearranged by Him! The Lord who of old prepared Jonah's shade-plant, prepared also the worm.
He gives — and He takes away. He molds every tear. He "puts them into His bottle. Not one of them falls unbidden — unnoted. We are led at times, amid the bewildering mazes of His providential dealings , to exclaim, "O Lord, how great are Your works, and Your thoughts are very deep! We cannot envision the thoughts and intents of the architect or engineer in the first clearing of the ground for the foundation of some gigantic structure. The uninitiated eye can discover nothing but piles of unshapely rubbish — a chaos of confusion.
But gradually, as week by week passes — we see his thoughts molding themselves into visible and substantial shapes of order and beauty; and when the edifice at last stands before us complete, we discern that all which was mystery and confusion at first — was a necessary part and portion of the undertaking.
So is it, at present, regarding the mysterious dealings of God. Often, in vain, do we try to comprehend the purposes of the Almighty Architect, amid the dust and debris of the earthly foundations. Let us wait patiently, until we gaze on the finished structure of eternity. Oh, blessed assurance — 'precious thought' of God — that the loom of our life is in the hands of the Great Designer — that it is He who is interweaving the threads of our existence: The chain of what is erroneously called "destiny," is in His keeping. He knows its every connecting link — He has forged each one on His own anvil!
Man's purposes have failed, and are ever liable to fail — his brightest anticipations may be thwarted; his best-laid schemes may be frustrated. Life is often a retrospect of crushed hopes — the bright rainbow-hues of morning, passing in its afternoon into damp mist and drizzling rain. No one can oppose what I do. No one can reverse My actions! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns!
He will save , He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest in his love. He will rejoice over you with singing! Wondrous 'thought of God! The idea is, the joy and satisfaction of one reposing after the completion of some arduous work. God rested at creation — He rejoiced with joy over a new-born world. But this was a feeble type of His delightful rest and rejoicing over the new-born ransomed soul.
There is a beautiful sequence in the verse. It rises to a climax. Then, as if this were not enough, He rejoices over His people "with singing. He "rests in His love! People may, from impulse, perform an act of love. Momentary feeling and emotion, even in the case of a naturally unloving heart, may prompt to some deed of generosity and kindness.
But God's nature and His name being love , with Him there can be nothing fitful, arbitrary, capricious. His love is no way-ward, inconstant stream — but a deep, quiet, everflowing, overflowing river! A word or a look, may alienate and estrange your best earthly friend. But the Friend of friends is immutable. Oh, how intense must that love be for the guilty and the lost, which is thus spoken of by the lips of Divine filial love, "therefore," says Jesus, "does My Father love Me, because I lay down My life for the sheep.
It begins at the throne — the keynote of that song is struck by God Himself! So also in the parable of the lost sheep. See how Christ speaks, as if He had all the joy to Himself of that wanderer's return; "He lays it on his shoulders rejoicing ," and says, "Rejoice with me!
Able to save, willing to save — even more — delighting to save! The apostle's 'thoughts' were desponding ones — when his God whispered in his ear this precious thought of comfort. A thorn in the flesh — a messenger from Satan — had been sent to buffet him! We know not what this thorn may have been.
God purposely leaves it unidentified, that each may make an individual application to his own particular case and circumstances. But who, in their diversified and chequered experience, has not to tell of some similar trial? Some dead fly in life's otherwise fragrant ointment — some sorrow which casts a softened shadow over perhaps an otherwise sunny path! Infirm health; worldly loss; domestic problems; family bereavement; the discharge of arduous and painful duty; the treachery of tried and trusted friends; the sting of wounded pride or disappointed ambition; the fierce struggle with inward corruption and un-mortified sin; the scorpion-dart of a violated and accusing conscience!
And the world all the time, perhaps little knowing or dreaming of the inward conflict, the life-long trial, the fountain of tears, though "a fountain sealed. As the apostle earnestly entreated that his thorn might be taken away — so may you, reader, also have prayed fervently and long — that your trial might be averted, your sorrow mitigated, if not removed!
You doubtless imagine that it would be far better — were this messenger of Satan, this spirit of evil, exorcized and cast out! But here again, God's thoughts are often not our thoughts! What was the answer to the apostle's earnest petition, when "three times he pleaded with the Lord to take it away. It was the promise of grace to bear it. He may have demurred at first to the strange answer — so unlike what he expected , so unlike what he wished. But he was led before long, not only joyfully to acquiesce — but heartily to own and acknowledge the higher and better wisdom of the Divine procedure, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me!
This, too, may be God's dealings with you. Often and again, it may be, have you taken your hidden sorrow — the burdening secret of your heart — laid it on the mercy-seat, and with importunate tears implored that it might be taken away! Yet the sorrow still remains! It has been answered — not perhaps according to your thoughts or desires — but according to the better thoughts and purposes of your heavenly Father! The thorn is still left to pierce and lacerate — but strength has been given to bear it! The trial, be what it may, has taught you, as it did Paul, the lesson of your own weakness — and your dependence on Divine aid.
It has been a needful drag on your chariot wheels — a needful clipping of your wings — lest, like the great apostle, "you should be exalted above measure. Seated by us like a kind physician, with His hand on our pulse — He will watch our weakness, and accommodate the divine supply — to our several needs and circumstances.
He will not allow the thorn to pierce too far — He will not allow the temptation to go beyond what we are able to endure. Grace "sufficient" will be given — sufficient for every emergency. His everlasting arms are ever lower than our troubles! I will go forth bearing my cross, fortified with the assurance, and breathing the prayer, "Summon your might, O God.
Display your power, O God, as You have in the past! Do not be dismayed — for I am your God! I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with My victorious right hand! The mountains are the most stable objects in the material world — nature's noblest emblem of immutability. But these have "change" written upon their stupendous brows. Time is furrowing them with wrinkles — and wearing down their colossal forms. Atmospheric influences are subjecting them to continual waste and decay. The snowy-crowned Alp is included in the doom, "All these things shall be dissolved!
But, more enduring than mountains of granite — is God's kindness. Whatever is dearest to us may change — and sooner or later must perish. The gourd we have lovingly nurtured and tended — may wither — like Jonah's, just when most needed! The gold we have taken a life-time to amass — may be forfeited by one adverse turn of capricious fortune!
The brook which for long years has sung its joyful way at our side — may be dried in its channel. The "staff and beautiful rod" which blossomed in our household — may be broken, and strewed in withered leaves at our feet! The cistern — hewn with such pains — may be fractured by a stroke of the chisel while hewing it, and lie scattered on the ground in fragments of shapeless ruin!
But God's love is immutable and immovable! Mark the succession of golden links, "precious thoughts," in our motto-verse. He speaks of the "covenant," "the covenant of peace," — of "My peace" — a covenant not to be "removed. Mountains, rocks, forests — all may decay and will decay; but "the Lord lives", "His years shall have no end! Nothing can assail the believer's safety — or undermine his security.
The oriental shepherds used to surround their flocks and folds, with a belt of fire, to scare away the devouring wolves. This covenant of My peace will be as a wall of flame! Once within My fold — you are safe forever. My sheep shall never — can never, perish! I have had many things in my hands — and I have lost them all!
But whatever I have been able to place in God's hands — I still possess. Believer, rejoice in this faithful, covenant-keeping God. Anchor your soul on this Rock of the Divine veracity. The great adversary may try at times to impair your confidence — shake your trust — lead you to question your personal interest in the great salvation. But what are his negatives , compared to one affirmative of that God who cannot lie? His covenant of peace has something better than your own ever-fluctuating frames and feelings to rest upon. It is ratified by His own oath and promise.
Do the well known tones of a mother's voice hush the child asleep, that has been startled from its couch by unquiet dreams? These two "thoughts of God" above — the voice of our heavenly Parent — may well lull our tossed spirits to rest, and lead us to pillow our heads with confidence in His holy will. There are times, indeed, when, despite of better convictions and a truer philosophy, our own thoughts are mingled with guilty doubts — unworthy surmises — regarding the rectitude of the Divine dealings.
We are led to say or to think with aged Jacob, "All these things are against me! In these fierce furnace-fires, I have chosen you — in these I will keep you; from these, I will bring you forth a vessel refined and fitted for the Master's use! The human parent, in chastisement, may act at times capriciously, guided by wayward impulse; "but God disciplines us for our profit — that we may be made partakers of His holiness.
Rather, surely, the acutest discipline, the hardest strokes of the rod — than to be left unchecked and un-reclaimed in our career of worldliness, forgetfulness, and sin — God uttering that severest word, "Why should you be stricken any more? You will only revolt more and more. My warnings and remonstrances are in vain — I will return to My place — I will give you up!
Tried one, recognize henceforth, in your sorest afflictions, a Father's rod , hear in them a Father's voice, see in each what will invest them with a halo of subdued glory, a mysterious, it may be — but yet a 'precious thought' of God, and that thought kindness and mercy. That loss of worldly substance — it was a thought of God. That withering disappointment , the blighting of young hope — it was a thought of God. That protracted sickness , that wasting disease — it was a thought of God.
The smiting of that clay idol — it was a thought of God. This is surely enough to wake up the tuneless broken strings of your heart to melody, "Whom the Lord loves — He chastens, and He scourges every son whom He receives. Trial is God's love-letter to His beloved people. How can I let you go? How can I destroy you like Admah or demolish you like Zeboiim? My heart is torn within Me, and My compassion overflows! No, I will not execute the fierceness of my anger. I will not completely destroy Israel, for I am God and not a mere mortal.
I am the Holy One living among you, and I will not come to destroy! What a tender unfolding of the heart of God is here! It is the yearning thought of the fondest of Fathers over a nation of wayward prodigals! How grievous had been their ingratitude. He speaks in the beginning of the chapter, of His loving thoughts to Israel "when a child," and of His specially gentle upbringing of them, "I Myself taught Israel how to walk, leading him along by the hand. But he doesn't know or even care that it was I who took care of him.
I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love! Surely the next entry in the Divine record will be the sentence of righteous retribution, "Ephraim is joined to his idols — let him alone! Listen to the tender apostrophe, "Oh, how can I give you up, Israel? He remembers "the cry" of Sodom and Gomorrah of a former age, and "their sin, which was very grievous.
Yes, truly, Your thoughts, O God, are not as man's thoughts; Your ways are not as man's ways; had they been so, long before now how many of us would have been "given up," and had executed against us the guilty cumberer's doom — the God we have so often grieved and provoked by our obstinacy and rebellion, swearing in His wrath that "we should never enter into His rest. Well may we say, with the stricken monarch of Israel, "Let us fall now into the hand of the Lord — for His mercies are great; and let me not fall into the hand of man. Though you may have tried the patience of your God by years of provocation — yet He still "keeps silence;" He waits to be gracious; He is not willing that any should perish.
Let His goodness and patience, His tenderness and long-suffering, lead you to repentance.
History's noblest deed and record of love — is in the self devotion of one generous heathen, Pylades, who forfeited his life to save his friend — but "God commends His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us! No chastening for the present may seem to be joyous but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it will yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness. It was the promise of grace to bear it. The idea is, the joy and satisfaction of one reposing after the completion of some arduous work. I, even I — the same hand that has wounded — will bind up; the same hand that is strong to smite — will be strong to save. Do I feel that His loving-kindness is better than life? But he was led before long, not only joyfully to acquiesce — but heartily to own and acknowledge the higher and better wisdom of the Divine procedure, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me!
Trembling penitent, bowed down under a sense of your base ingratitude, your prolonged alienation, fearful lest a guilty past may have cut you off from the hope of pardoning mercy — return! You are saying, perhaps, in the bitter reproach of self-abandonment and despair, "I am given up! I am delivered over to the tyranny of my spiritual enemies — the Lord has cast me off forever! He can be favorable no more! Man would crush his enemy — but I am God, and not man.
I will not destroy, I will save you! God had just spoken of the certain destruction that would overtake obstinate and incorrigible sinners. These He describes under the similitude of "briers and thorns set against Me in battle. His thoughts, in this respect too, are not our thoughts. His hatred at sin is a principle. It is the deliberate recoil of His own infinitely Holy nature from iniquity — that iniquity which His Justice and Righteousness require Him to punish.
Let us beware of a harsh and repulsive theology that would assimilate God to the avenging deities of the heathen. He is "slow to smite. He shows mercy to thousands of those who love Him. At the same time, neither must we forget that He is 'glorious in holiness. Oh, most solemn, most terrible 'thought' to those who are still as "thorns and briers against Him in battle" — who are still enemies by nature and wicked works.
They cannot escape His wrath! They cannot elude His righteous retribution. If they continue in sin, they can know only in their bitter experience, "what a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God! But our motto-verse contains a wondrous alternative of mercy. At the very moment when sinners are rushing with blind madness against the thick bosses of Jehovah's buckler — He whom they have made their enemy has a 'thought' in His heart of loving reconciliation. Listen to the gracious proposal, "Or, let him take hold of My strength, that he may make peace with Me. Who is "the Strength of God?
It is a sure and well-grounded peace, purchased by His atoning blood, and secured and perpetuated by His continual intercession. Take hold of that arm, and salvation is sure. God's people had been grievously backsliding. He had been loading them with mercies — and they had been guiltily disowning His hand!
They had taken the gifts — and spurned the Giver! What will His thoughts be towards this treacherous one? Can they be anything else but those of merited retribution — casting her out, and casting her off forever? We expect when we hear the concluding word, "therefore," that it is the awful summing up of His controversy — the turning of the Judge to pronounce righteous sentence.
We listen — but lo! There I will give her back her vineyards. Who am I kidding? Who would I rather trust than someone who thinks about me as much as You do? These are things that I used to truly hate about myself.
He has recently shown me that being disorganized, unstructured and a bit of a mess is not only OK, it is beautiful. It makes me abstract, creative and fun! Oh Lord, please forgive me, forgive me for my unbelief. Forgive me for not coming to you first, the One who loves me more than anything or anyone for that matter. I pray all of this in Your Precious name Jesus! How to Avoid Drifting Courtnaye Richard. Just Keep Breathing Emily Massey. Change my Heart Anchored Voices.