A WORD OF COMFORT FOR BELIEVERS

Psalm 84:3 Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God.

“This Psalmist, though, when he began his song, he was far away from the Temple, and though he finished it sitting on the same hillside on which he began it, when he had ended it was within the curtains of the sanctuary and wrapt about with the presence of his God. He had regained as he sang what for a moment he had lost the consciousness of when he began-viz. the presence of God with him on the lone, dreary expanse of alien soil as truly as amidst the sanctities of what was called His House.”

“SPARROWS AND ALTARS

MacLaren:

The well-known saying of the saintly Rutherford, when he was silenced and exiled from his parish, echoes and expounds these words. ‘When I think,’ said he, ‘upon the sparrows and swallows that build their nests in the kirk of Anwoth, and of my dumb Sabbaths, my sorrowful, bleared eyes look asquint upon Christ, and present Him as angry.’ So sighed the Presbyterian minister in his compelled idleness in a prosaic seventeenth-century Scotch town, answering his heart’s-brother away back in the far-off time, and in such different circumstances.

The Psalmist was probably a member of the Levitical family of the Sons of Korah, who were ‘doorkeepers in the house of the Lord.’ He knew what he was saying when he preferred his humble office to all honours among the godless. He was shut out by some unknown circumstances from external participation in the Temple rites, and longs to be even as one of the swallows or sparrows that twitter and flit round the sacred courts.

No doubt to him faith was much more inseparably attached to form than it should be for us. No doubt place and ritual were more to him than they can permissibly be to those who have heard and understood the great charter of spiritual worship spoken first to an outcast Samaritan of questionable character: ‘Neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem shall men worship the Father.’ But equally it is true that what he wanted was what the outward worship brought him, rather than the worship itself. And the psalm, which begins with ‘longing’ and ‘fainting’ for the courts of the Lord, and pronouncing benedictions on ‘those that dwell in Thy house,’ works itself clear, if I might so say, and ends with ‘O Lord of Hosts! Blessed is the man that trusteth in Thee’-for he shall ‘dwell in Thy house,’ wherever he is. So this flight of imagination in the words of my text may suggest to us two or three lessons.

I. I take it first as pointing a bitter and significant contrast.

‘The sparrow hath found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself,’ while I! We do not know what the Psalmist’s circumstances were, but if we accept the conjecture that he may have accompanied David in his flight during Absalom’s rebellion, we may fancy him as wandering on the uplands across Jordan, and sharing the agitations, fears, and sorrows of those dark hours, and in the midst of all, as the little company hurried hither and thither for safety, thinking, with a touch of bitter envy, of the calm restfulness and serene services of the peaceful Temple.

But, pathetic as is the complaint, when regarded as the sigh of a minister of the sanctuary exiled from the shrine which was as his home, and from the worship which was his occupation and delight, it sounds a deeper note and one which awakens echoes in our hearts, when we hear in it, as we may, the complaint of humanity contrasting its unrest with the happier lot of lower creatures.

Do you remember who it was that said-and on what occasion He said it-’Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have roosting-places, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head’?

That saying, like our text, has a narrower and a wider application. In the former it pathetically paints the homeless Christ, a wanderer in a land peculiarly ‘His own,’ and warns His enthusiastic would-be follower of the lot which he was so light-heartedly undertaking to share. But when Jesus calls Himself ‘Son of Man,’ He claims to be the realised ideal of humanity, and when, as in that saying, He contrasts the condition of ‘the Son of Man’ with that of the animal creation, we can scarcely avoid giving to the words their wider application to the same contrast between man’s homelessness and the creatures’ repose which we have found in the Psalmist’s sigh.

Yes! There is only one being in this world that does not fit the world that he is in, and that is man, chief and foremost of all. Other beings perfectly correspond to what we now call their ‘environment.’ Just as the soft mollusc fits every convolution of its shell, and the hard shell fits every curve of the soft mollusc, so every living thing corresponds to its place and its place to it, and with them all things go smoothly.

But man, the crown of creation, is an exception to this else universal complete adaptation. ‘The earth, O Lord! is full of Thy mercy,’ but the only creature who sees and says that is the only one who has further to say, ‘I am a stranger on the earth.’ He and he alone is stung with restlessness and conscious of longings and needs which find no satisfaction here.

That sense of homelessness may be an agony or a joy, a curse or a blessing, according to our interpretation of its meaning, and our way of stilling it. It is not a sign of inferiority, but of a higher destiny, that we alone should bear in our spirits the ‘blank misgivings’ of those who, amid unsatisfying surroundings, have blind feelings after ‘worlds not realised,’ which elude our grasp. It is no advantage over us that every fly dancing in the treacherous gleams of an April sun, and every other creature on the earth except ourselves, on whom the crown is set, is perfectly proportioned to its place, and has desire and possessions absolutely conterminous.

‘The son of man hath not where to lay his head.’ Why must he alone wander homeless on the bleak moorland, whilst the sparrows and the swallows have their nests and their houses? Why? Because they are sparrows and swallows, and he is man, and ‘better than many sparrows.’ So let us lay to heart the sure promises, the blessed hopes, the stimulating exhortations, which come from that which, at first sight, seems to be a mystery and half an arraignment of the divine wisdom, in the contrast between the restlessness of humanity and the reposeful contentment of those whom we call the lower creatures. Be true to the unrest, brother! and do not mistake its meaning, nor seek to still it, until it drives you to God.

II. These words bring to us a plea which we may use, and a pledge on which we may rest.

‘Thine altars, O Lord of hosts! my King and my God.’ The Psalmist pleads with God, and lays hold for his own confidence upon the fact that creatures which do not understand what the altar means, may build beside it, and those which have no notion of who the God is to whom the house is sacred, are yet cared for by Him. And he thinks to himself, ‘If I can say “My King and my God,” surely He that takes care of them will not leave me uncared for.’ The unrest of the soul that is capable of appropriating God is an unrest which has in it, if we understand it aright, the assurance that it shall be stilled and satisfied. He that is capable of entering into the close personal relationship with God which is expressed by that eloquent little pronoun and its reduplication with the two words, ‘King’ and ‘God’-such a creature cannot cry for rest in vain, nor in vain grope, as a homeless wanderer, for the door of the Father’s house.

‘Doth God care for oxen; or saith He it altogether for our sakes?’ ‘Consider the fowls of the air; your heavenly Father feedeth them.’ And the same argument which the Apostle used in the one of these sayings, and our Lord in the other, is valid and full of encouragement when applied to this matter. He that ‘satisfies the desires of every living thing,’ and fills full the maw of the lowest creature; and puts the worms into the gaping beak of the young ravens when they cry, is not the King to turn a deaf ear, or the back of His hand, to the man who can appeal to Him with this word on his lips, ‘My King and my God!’ We grasp God when we say that; and all that we see of provident recognition and supply of wants in dealings with these lower creatures should encourage us to cherish calm unshakable confidence that every true desire of our souls after Him is as certain to be satisfied.

And so the glancing swallows around the eaves of the Temple and the twittering sparrows on its pinnacles may proclaim to us, not only a contrast which is bitter, but a confidence which is sweet. We may be sure that we shall not be left uncared for amongst the many pensioners at His table, and that the deeper our wants the surer we are of their supply. Our bodies may hunger in vain-bodily hunger has no tendency to bring meat; but our spirits cannot hunger in vain if they hunger after God; for that hunger is the sure precursor and infallible prophet of the coming satisfaction.

These words not only may hearten us with confidence that our desires will be satisfied if they are set upon Him, but they point us to the one way by which they are so. Say ‘My King and my God!’ in the deepest recesses of a spirit conscious of His presence, of a will submitting to His authority, of emptiness expectant of His fulness; say that, and you are in the house of the Lord. For it is not a question of place, it is a question of disposition and desire. This Psalmist, though, when he began his song, he was far away from the Temple, and though he finished it sitting on the same hillside on which he began it, when he had ended it was within the curtains of the sanctuary and wrapt about with the presence of his God. He had regained as he sang what for a moment he had lost the consciousness of when he began-viz. the presence of God with him on the lone, dreary expanse of alien soil as truly as amidst the sanctities of what was called His House.

So, brethren! if we want rest, let us clasp God as ours; if we desire a home warm, safe, sheltered from every wind that blows, and inaccessible to enemies, let us, like the swallows, nestle under the eaves of the Temple. Let us take God for our Hope. They that hold communion with Him-and we can all do that wherever we are and whatever we may be doing-these, and only these, ‘dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of their lives.’ Therefore, with deepest simplicity of expression, our psalm goes on to describe, as equally recipients of blessedness, ‘those that dwell in the house of the Lord,’ and those in ‘whose heart are the ways’ that lead to it, and to explain at last, as I have already pointed out, that both the dwellers in, and the pilgrims towards, that intimacy of abiding with God are included in the benediction showered on those who cling to Him, ‘Blessed is the man that trusteth in Thee!’

III. Lastly, we may take this picture of the Psalmist’s as a warning.

Sparrows and swallows have very small brains. They build their nests, and they do not know whose altars they are flitting around. They pursue the insects on the wing, and they twitter their little songs; and they do not understand how all their busy, glancing, brief, trivial life is being lived beneath the shadow of the cherubim, and all but in the presence of the veiled God of the Shekinah.

There are too many people who live like that. We are all tempted to build our nests where we may lay our young, or dispose of ourselves or our treasures in the very sanctuary of God, with blind, crass indifference to the Presence in which we move. The Father’s house has many mansions, and wherever we go we are in God’s Temple. Alas! some of us have no more sense of the sanctities around us, and no more consciousness of the divine Eye that looks down upon us, than if we were so many feathered sparrows flitting about the altar.

Let us take care, brethren! that we give our hearts to be influenced, and awed, and ennobled, and tranquillised by the sense of ever more being in the house of the Lord. Let us see to it that we keep in that house by continual aspiration, cherishing in our hearts the ways that lead to it; and so making all life worship, and every place what the pilgrim found the stone of Bethel to be, a house of God and a gate of heaven.

For everywhere, to the eye that sees the things that are, and not only the things that seem-and to the heart that feels the unseen presence of the One Reality, God Himself-all places are temples, and all work may be beholding His beauty and inquiring in His sanctuary; and everywhere, though our heads rest upon a stone, and there be night and solitude around us, and doubt and darkness in front of us, and danger and terror behind us, and weakness within us, as was the case with Jacob, there will be the ladder with its foot at our side and its top in the heavens; and above the top of it His face, which when we see it look down upon us, makes all places and circumstances good and sweet.”

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MOTHER’S DAY, A TESTIMONY REMEMBERED

These are the memories I have of my mother.  I would like to share them on this day that mothers are remembered.  I hope it will be a blessing.

Link:  MY MOM

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THERE IS NONE

He is my all in all …

Psalm 73:25 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.

Barnes:

whom have I in heaven but thee? – literally, “Who is to me in the heavens?” That is, There is no one there that in my love for him can be compared with thee; no one who can do for me what thou canst do;

no one who can meet and satisfy the needs of my soul as thou canst;

no one who can be to me what God “is” – what a God “must” be.

After all my complaining and my doubts there is no one, not even in the heavens, who cant supply the place of “God,” or be to me what God is; and the warm affections of my soul, therefore, are “really” toward him. I feel my need of him; and I must and do find my supreme happiness in him. What would even heaven be to me without God? who there, even of the angels of light, could supply the place of God?

And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee – That is, Thou art all-sufficient; thou dost meet and satisfy the needs of my nature. All my happiness is in thee;

no one on earth could be substituted in thy place, or be to me what thou art as God.

Psalm 73:26My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

My flesh and my heart faileth – Flesh and heart here seem to refer to the whole man, body and soul; and the idea is, that his powers of body and mind failed; were spent; were exhausted. This seems to have been said in an “ideal” sense, or by anticipation. He does not mean to say that his strength then had actually failed, but he seems to have placed himself by imagination in the situation where his strength “would” be all gone – in sickness, in weakness, in sorrow, on the bed of death. He asks himself now what would be his strength then – what would be the object of chief interest and love – on what he would rely; and he answers without hesitation, and with entire confidence, that he could rely on God, and that He would be his portion forever. Even then, when heart and flesh should fail, when all the powers of mind and body should be exhausted, the love of God would survive, and he would find strength and joy in Him.

But God is the strength of my heart – Margin, as in Hebrew, “rock;” the rock on which my heart relies; that is, my refuge, my defense. 

And my portion for ever – The source of my happiness.

Not wealth, then;

not honor;

not earthly friends;

not fame –

will be my reliance and the ground of my hope; but that which I shall regard as most valuable – my supreme joy and rejoicing – will be the fact that God is my friend and portion. With all the doubts which I have had in regard to the rectitude of his government, I am sure that when I come to die, I shall cling to him as my hope, my joy, my all.

My last refuge – my sufficient refuge – is God. When people come to die, they have “no other refuge” but God.

Nothing that they can accumulate of this world’s goods will meet their needs then, for God only can give strength and comfort on the bed of death. Of each and all, however vigorous they may now be, it will be true that “flesh and heart” will “fail;” of each and all it is true that when this shall occur, none but God can be the portion and the strength of the soul.

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WOE IS ME THAT I SOJOURN IN MESECH

Psalm 120:5 Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar! 

Spurgeon:

This has been the cry of the children of God in all ages. Lot had his ears vexed with the filthy conversation of the men of Sodom. Many of the woes of Micah sprang from those men who were sharper than a thorn hedge—every one of them ready to tear and scratch his neighbor. David’s deepest griefs came from the men who surrounded him—on the one hand, the unfriendly sons of Zeruiah, who were too strong for him and, on the other hand, Shimei and the sons of Belial, who made a reproach of every word he uttered and every deed he did. Even Isaiah, himself, that happy-spirited Prophet, one day cried, “Woe is me, for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips!” And then he added another cause of his woe, “and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” And I expect I may truly say that, to this day, you, my Brothers and Sisters, who are followers of Jesus, have often had to cry out, “Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar!” And you have longed to be far away from this dusky world, so full of sin, traps, pitfalls and everything that makes us stumble in our path—and of nothing that can help us onward towards Heaven.

Matthew Henry:

Woe is me, says David, that I am forced to dwell among such, that I sojourn in Mesech and Kedar. 

Not that David dwelt in the country of Mesech or Kedar; we never find him so far off from his own native country; but he dwelt among rude and barbarous people, like the inhabitants of Mesech and Kedar: as, when we would describe an ill neighbourhood, we say, We dwell among … heathens. 

This made him cry out, Woe is me! 

He was forced to live at a distance from the ordinances of God. While he was in banishment, he looked upon himself as a sojourner, never at home but when he was near God’s altars; and he cries out, 

“Woe is me that my sojourning is prolonged, that I cannot get home to my resting-place, but am still kept at a distance!” So some read it. 

Note, A good man cannot think himself at home while he is banished from God’s ordinances and has not them within reach. And it is a great grief to all that love God to be without the means of grace and of communion with God: when they are under a force of that kind they cannot but cry out, as David here, Woe to me!

He was forced to live among wicked people, who were, upon many accounts, troublesome to him. He dwelt in the tents of Kedar, where the shepherds were probably in an ill name for being litigious, like the herdsmen of Abraham and Lot. 

It is a very grievous burden to a good man to be cast into, and kept in, the company of those whom he hopes to be for ever separated from (like Lot in Sodom; 2 Pt. 2:8); to dwell long with such is grievous indeed, for they are thorns, vexing, and scratching, and tearing, and they will show the old enmity that is in the seed of the serpent against the seed of the woman.

Gill:

And very grieving and distressing it is to good men to have their abode among wicked men; as well as it is infectious and dangerous: to hear their profane and blasphemous talk, to see their wicked and filthy actions, and to observe their abominable conversation, is very vexatious, and gives great uneasiness, as it did to righteous Lot, 2 Peter 2:7. 

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DEAR BRETHREN, TO WHICH ARMY DO YOU BELONG?

I don’t usually duplicate something I’ve posted elsewhere, but this particular teaching is so “meaty” and so needed in today’s church, that I posted it twice. I believe it is a word for the church today. 

John 15:18-20 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. 

MacLaren:

SHEEP AMONG WOLVES

These words strike a discord in the midst of the sweet music to which we have been listening. The key-note of all that has preceded has been love -the love of Christ’s friends to one another, and of all to Him, as an answer to His love to all. That love, which is one, whether it rise to Him or is diffused on the level of earth, is the result of that unity of life between the Vine and the branches, of which our Lord has been speaking such great and wonderful things. But that unity of life between Christians and Christ has another consequence than the spread of love. 

Just because it binds them to Him in a sacred community, it separates them from those who do not share in His life, and hence the “hate” of our context is the shadow of “love”; and there result two communities – to use the much-abused words that designate them – the Church and ‘the World’; and the antagonism between these is deep, fundamental, and perpetual.

Unquestionably, our Lord is here speaking with special reference to the Apostles, who, in a very tragic sense, were “sent forth as sheep in the midst of wolves.” If we may trust tradition, every one of that little company, Speaker as well as hearers, died a martyr’s death, with the exception of John himself, who was preserved from it by a miracle. 

But, be that as it may, our Lord is here laying down a universal statement of the permanent condition of things; and there is no more reason for restricting the force of these words to the original hearers of them than there is for restricting the force of any of the rest of this wonderful discourse. 

“The world” will be in antagonism to the Church until the world ceases to be a world, because it obeys the King; and then, and not till then, will it cease to be hostile to His subjects.

What makes this hostility inevitable?

Jesus points to two things, as you will observe, which make this hostility inevitable. “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you.” And again, “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” 

The very language carries with it the implication of necessary and continual antagonism. For what is ”the world,” in this context, but the aggregate of men, who have no share in the love and life that flow from Jesus Christ? 

Necessarily they constitute a unity, whatever diversities there may be amongst them, and necessarily, that unity in its banded phalanx is in antagonism, in some measure, to those who constitute the other unity, which holds by Christ, and has been drawn by Him from “out of the world.”

If we share Christ’s life, we must, necessarily, in some measure, share His fate. It is the typical example of what the world thinks of, and does to, goodness. And all who have “the Spirit of life which was in Jesus Christ” for the animating principle of their lives, will, just in the measure in which they possess it, come under the same influences which carried Him to the Cross. 

In a world like this, it is impossible for a man to “love righteousness and hate iniquity,” and to order his life accordingly, without treading on somebody’s corns; being a rebuke to the opposite course of conduct, either interfering with men’s self-complacency or with their interests. From the beginning the blind world has repaid goodness by antagonism and contempt.

And then our Lord touches another, and yet closely-connected, cause when He speaks of His selecting the Apostles, and drawing them out of the world, as a reason for the world’s hostility. 

There are two groups, and the fundamental principles that underlie each are in deadly antagonism. 

In the measure in which you and I are Christians we are in direct opposition to all the maxims which rule the world and make it a world. 

What we believe to be precious it regards as of no account. 

What we believe to be fundamental truth it passes by as of little importance. 

Much which we feel to be wrong it regards as good. 

Our jewels are its tinsel, and its jewels are our tinsel. 

We and it stand in diametrical opposition of thought about God, about self, about duty, about life, about death, about the future; and that opposition goes right down to the bottom of things. 

However it may be covered over, there is a gulf, as in some of those American canyons: the towering cliffs may be very near-only a yard or two seems to separate them; but they go down for thousands and thousands of feet, and never are any nearer each other, and between them at the bottom a black, sullen river flows. 

“If ye were of the world, the world would love its own.” If it loves you, it is because ye are of it.

II. And so note, secondly, how this hostility is masked and modified.

There are a great many other bonds that unite men together besides the bonds of religious life or their absence. 

There are the domestic ties, there are the associations of commerce and neighborhood, there are surface identities of opinion about many important things. 

The greater portion of our lives moves on this surface, where all men are alike. “If you tickle us, do we not laugh; if you wound us, do we not bleed?’ 

We have all the same affections and needs, pursue the same avocations, do the same sort of things, and a large portion of every one’s life is under the dominion of habit and custom, and determined by external circumstances. 

So there is a film of roofing thrown over the gulf. You can make up a crack in a wall with plaster after a fashion, and it will hide the solution of continuity that lies beneath. But let bad weather come, and soon the bricks gape apart as before. And so, as soon as we get down below the surface of things and grapple with the real, deep-lying, and formative principles of a life, we come to antagonism, just as they used to come to it long ago, though the form of it has become quite different.

Then there are other causes modifying this hostility. 

The world has got a dash of Christianity into it since Jesus Christ spoke. We cannot say that it is half Christianized, but some of the issues and remoter consequences of Christianity have permeated the general conscience, and the ethics of the Gospel are largely diffused in such a land as this. 

Thus Christian men and others have, to a large extent, a common code of morality, as long as they keep on the surface; and they not only do a good many things exactly alike, but do a great many things from substantially the same motives, and have the same way of looking at much. 

Thus the gulf is partly bridged over; and the hostility takes another form. 

We do not wrap Christians in pitch and stick them up for candles in the Emperor’s garden nowadays, but the same thing can be done in different ways. 

Newspaper articles, the light laugh of scorn, the whoop of exultation over the failures or faults of any prominent man that has stood out boldly on Christ’s side; all these indicate what lies below the surface, and sometimes not so very far below. 

Many a young man in a Manchester warehouse, trying to live a godly life, many a workman at his bench, many a commercial traveller in the inn or on the road, many a student on the college benches, has to find out that there is a great gulf between him and the man who sits next to him, and that he cannot be faithful to his Lord, and at the same time, down to the depths of his being, a friend of one who has no friendship to his Master.

Still another fact masks the antagonism, and that is, that after all, the world, meaning thereby the aggregate of godless men, has a conscience that responds to goodness, though grumblingly and reluctantly. After all, men do know that it is better to be good, that it is better and wiser to be like Christ, that it is nobler to live for Him than for self, and that consciousness cannot but modify to some extent the manifestations of the hostility, but it is there all the same, and whosoever will be a Christian after Christ’s pattern will find out that it is there.

Let a man for Christ’s sake avow unpopular beliefs, 

let him try honestly to act out the New Testament, 

let him boldly seek to apply Christian principles to the fashionable and popular sins of his class or of his country, 

let him in any way be ahead of the conscience of the majority, and what a chorus will be yelping at his heels! 

Dear brethren, the law still remains, “If any man will be a friend of the world he is at enmity with God.”

III. Thirdly, note how you may escape the hostility.

A half-Christianized world and a more than half-secularized Church get on well together. “When they do agree, their agreement is wonderful.” And it is a miserable thing to reflect that about the average Christianity of this generation there is so very little that does deserve the antagonism of the world. 

Why should the world care to hate or trouble itself about a professing Church, large parts of which are only a bit of the world under another name? 

There is no need whatever that there should be any antagonism at all between a godless world and hosts of professing Christians. 

If you want to escape the hostility drop your flag, button your coat over the badge that shows that you belong to Christ, and do the things that the people round about you do, and you will have a perfectly easy and undisturbed life.

Of course, in the bad old slavery days, a Christianity that had not a word to say about the sin of slave-holding ran no risk of being tarred and feathered. 

Of course a Christianity in Manchester that winks hard at commercial immoralities is very welcome on the Exchange. 

Of course a Christianity that lets beer barrels alone may reckon upon having publicans for its adherents. 

Of course a Christianity that blesses flags and sings Te Deums over victories will get its share of the spoil. 

Why should the world hate, or persecute, or despise a Christianity like that, any more than a man need to care for a tame tiger that has had its claws pared? 

If the world can put a hook in the nostrils of leviathan, and make him play with its maidens, it will substitute good-nature, half contemptuous, for the hostility which our Master here predicts. 

It was out-and-out Christians that He said the world would hate; the world likes Christians that are like itself. 

Christian men and women! be you sure that you deserve the hostility which my text predicts.

IV. And now, lastly, note how to meet this antagonism.

Reckon it as a sign and test of true union with Jesus Christ. And so, if ever, by reason of our passing at the call of duty or benevolence outside the circle of those who sympathise with our faith and fundamental ideas, we encounter it more manifestly than when we “dwell among our own people,” let us count the “reproach of Christ” as a treasure to be proud of, and to be guarded.

Be sure that it is your goodness and not your evils or your weakness, that men dislike. The world has a very keen eye for the inconsistencies and the faults of professing Christians, and it is a good thing that it has. The loftier your profession the sharper the judgment that is applied to you. Many well-meaning Christian people, by an injudicious use of Christian phraseology in the wrong place, and by the glaring contradiction between their prayers and their talks and their daily life, bring down a great deal of deserved hostility upon themselves and of discredit upon Christianity; and then they comfort themselves and say they are bearing the “reproach of the Cross.” Not a bit of it! They are bearing the natural results of their own failings and faults. And it is for us to see to it that what provokes, if it does provoke, hostile judgments and uncharitable criticisms, insulting speeches and sarcasms, and the sense of our belonging to another regiment and having other objects, is our cleaving to Jesus Christ, and not the imperfections and the sins with which we so often spoil that cleaving. Be you careful for this, that it is Christ in you that men turn from, and not you yourself and your weakness and sin.

Meet this antagonism by not dropping your standard one inch. 

Keep the flag right at the masthead. 

If you begin to haul it down, where are you going to stop? Nowhere, until you have got it draggling in the mud at the foot. It is of no use to try to conciliate by compromise. 

All that we shall gain by that will be, as I have said, indifference and contempt; 

all that we shall gain will be a loss to the cause. 

A great deal is said in this day, and many efforts are being made – I cannot but think mistaken efforts – by Christian people to bridge over this gulf in the wrong way – that is, by trying to make out that Christianity in its fundamental principles does approximate a great deal more closely to the things that the world goes by than it really does. 

It is all vain, and the only issue of it will be that we shall have a decaying Christianity and a dying spiritual life. 

Keep the flag up; 

emphasize and accentuate the things that the world disbelieves and denies, not pushing them to the “falsehood of extremes,” but not by one jot diminishing the clearness of our testimony by reason of the world’s unwillingness to receive it. 

Our victory is to be won only through absolute faithfulness to Christ’s ideal.

And, lastly, meet hostility with unmoved, patient, Christlike, and Christ-derived love and sympathy. 

The patient sunshine pours upon the glaciers and melts the thick-ribbed ice at last into sweet water. 

The patient sunshine beats upon the mist-cloud and breaks up its edges and scatters it at the last. 

And our Lord here tells us that our experience, if we are faithful to Him, will be like His experience, in that some will hearken to our word though others will persecute, and to some our testimony will come as a message from God that draws them to the Lord Himself. 

These are our only weapons, brethren! 

The only conqueror of the world is the love that was in Christ breathed through us; 

the only victory over suspicion, contempt, alienation, is pleading, persistent, long-suffering, self-denying love. 

The only way to overcome the world’s hostility is by turning the world into a church, and that can only be done when Christ’s servants oppose pity to wrath, love to hate, and in the strength of His life who has won us all by the same process, seek to win the world for Him by the manifestation of His victorious love in our patient love.

Dear brethren, to which army do you belong? 

Which community is yours? 

Are you in Christ’s ranks, or are you in the world’s? 

Do you love Him back again, or do you meet His open heart with a closed one, and His hand, laden with blessings, with hands clenched in refusal? 

To which class do I belong? – it is the question of questions for us all; 

and I pray that you and I, won from our hatred by His love, and wooed out of our death by His life, and made partakers of His life by His death, may yield our hearts to Him, and so pass from out of the hostility and mistrust of a godless world into the friendships and peace of the sheltering Vine. And then we “shall esteem the reproach of Christ” if it fall upon our heads, in however modified and mild a form, “greater riches than the treasures of Egypt,” and ‘have respect unto the recompense of the reward.’

May it be so with us all!

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WAITING FOR GOD

Waiting for God
by Clifford Ogden
(Published in “A Witness and a Testimony” magazine, 1960)

“Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired, His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” (Isaiah 40:27-31).

“Do not fret because of evildoers, be not envious toward wrongdoers. For they will wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land.” (Psalm 37:1-9).

“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him”. The Word does not say, Rest in indifference; nor, Wait for events: it says: Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. That, I think, is one of our difficulties, perhaps one of our main difficulties – to rest in the Lord; to wait patiently for Him.

The Time Factor and Fretfulness

Fret and worry are of the spirit of the world; but they seem to have percolated into the Lord’s people: fret and anxiety, leading to impetuosity and precipitancy. Those things are the products of time, and we are so governed by time. There is a story of a visitor from the East, from China, who, after a little while, said to his host: ‘You find it strange that we in China have little idols, gods, that we worship; but you know, you in the West have a god that you worship. He sits upon the mantelpiece; his hands are before his face. He says, Do this, and you have to do it; Do that, and, again, you have to do it. He tells you when to eat, when to get up in the morning, and when to go to bed.’ Well, there is a humorous side to that story, of course, but there is truth in it. How people are governed by time! How we, the Lord’s people, are governed by time! We may have certain convictions; ideas of what ought to be: and how we fret, and how we worry concerning them. In the final analysis, their realisation may not be in our time – but is that of such importance? When D. L. Moody lay dying, a friend said to him: ‘You have been praying for So-and-so for forty years; your prayers have not been answered; what about it?’ D. L. Moody said: ‘No, he is not saved yet, but he will be.’ It did not depend upon the life-time of D. L. Moody: it depended on the Lord. These things that I have mentioned – fret, anxiety; our impetuosity, and our precipitancy – are the products of time. But rest and assurance and confidence and patience, are of the essence of eternity. We fret; God never does. God is never in a hurry; we are.

Haste the Product of Unbelief

Isaiah says that one of the marks of a believer, a true believer, is that he ‘shall not make haste’ (Isa. 28:16). Peter says: ‘He shall not be put to shame’ (1 Peter 2:6). And the Psalmist knew that these things are linked together – haste and shame; unhurry and unashamedness. ‘He that believeth shall not make haste’. So haste is akin to unbelief: unbelief begets haste. Why are we in such a hurry? Because we do not believe. But faith begets confidence, and assurance, and hope, and accomplishment. The Lord Jesus was never in a hurry. As we read through the record of His life, how impressive is the absence of any sense of hurry – He was never in a hurry. God is like that – He is not in a hurry.

The Lord Jesus drew the strong contrast between all others and Himself: He said this, “My time is not yet come; but your time is always ready” (John 7:6). Now the language there is rather archaic, but what it means is this: ‘You are always in a hurry’. How frantically we react to situations – it is time! it is time! we ought to do something! Time is passing; the moment, the opportunity will be gone; we must do something. And it would seem – I emphasise that – it would seem that the Lord is unconcerned: ‘My time is not yet’. We will look at that a little more closely in a moment, in the incident of the raising of Lazarus.

The Unhurried Confidence of God

Even today, with all the chaos in the world, with the uncertainty of things – and how uncertain they are; when, as never before, men might well say, Why does God not do something? – God has said, and still says to His Son, “Sit thou on my right hand, till… till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet.” (Acts 2:36). Could He not have done it following the Cross? Could He not have done it at least two thousand years ago? Could He not do it now? God says: “Sit thou on my right hand, till…” You see, it is not the calendar which is keeping God waiting; God does not work to days and times and seasons: God works to conditions and states. And God is doing something, even while He waits. It may be that, where you and I are concerned, He is waiting until we stop fretting, until our over-anxiety is cast upon Him, and we come to rest in the Lord. He is waiting for us to come to a place of quiet restfulness in Himself.

Impatience a Hindrance to God

But our impatience is not merely negative where God is concerned; it is a positive hindrance. I want to turn to the Scriptures: there are many illustrations of this principle; we will take a few of them:-

(1) Abraham

It is strange to associate Abraham with unrest in the Lord – fret – but it was there. On many things he had come to rest in the Lord. Basically he was believing in the Lord, but there was one thing, just one thing, and it nagged at his heart. “What wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless… and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir” (Gen. 15:2,3) – it was this longing, this desire of Abraham’s for a son. And we know the story. Abraham could not wait for God. Stirred up by Sarah, he moved. Time was passing. Soon it would be too late; he must do something. And he did. He could not wait for the Lord; he was moved out of his place of rest; his patience was at an end. So Ishmael was born. There are many who know the tragic story of Islam – the posterity born of Abraham’s impatience. He could not wait for the Lord – even Abraham! And notice, Abraham’s impatience had to do with something that God had promised. Oh, the trouble that Abraham caused the Lord by his failure to wait patiently – and what trouble we cause the Lord! even in relation to His things, by not being prepared to wait. And the issue at stake was nothing less than the grand purpose of God, for Abraham was the one whom God called out in order to initiate His eternal purpose amongst men; the Seed, which is Christ, was in view: and Abraham could not wait. The fruit of his impatience was Ishmael; and if you want to know how much trouble such impatience caused the Lord, read the Galatian letter.

(2) Jacob

Jacob could not wait for the Lord. The Lord had given him promises, had set His heart upon the fulfilment of the covenant made to Abraham; but Jacob could not wait. From the moment when he flies for his life, there begins the sad history, through all the vicissitudes of his stay in Padanaram, years and years of feverish, fretful, impatient activity, he could not wait for the Lord. When he comes back to Jabbok, he has to confess: I have not obtained the birthright-blessing; I have achieved nothing. And if he were to speak the truth, he would say: I have delayed the Lord; I have held Him up. He has been waiting. The Lord was waiting for him at Jabbok – still waiting! (Gen. 32).

(3) Moses

Moses could not wait for the Lord. When they came the second time to the place of need for water, Moses went out with Aaron at the bidding of God, and his impetuosity, his impatience, carried him away – impatience with the Lord’s people. Crying out: ‘Ye rebels, shall we bring you forth water out of this rock?…’ he struck the rock a second time! (Num. 20:2-12). Only the act of a moment, but it shut him out of the land! Impatience may be momentary, but it is an awful thing.

(4) Aaron

Aaron was amongst those who could not wait (Ex. 32:1-6). Moses had gone up into the mount to receive the tables of the Law. At the foot, there remained the people of God, and Aaron. The people became impatient: ‘What has become of Moses we know not; we have been waiting now…’ They had not waited long! Aaron is caught in this; Aaron could not wait. And so, in a very weak kind of way, he gives in to the people, and the product is the ‘golden calf’. You notice that God does not excuse Aaron, and in reading it again, I see how unwilling he seemed to be to go with the people; he did not want to do it; yet he made the ‘golden calf’. I believe that in the back of his mind was this thought: ‘Well, after all, there is the thought of sacrifice, and if I make it into something that the people can see, I am not doing any harm! I will come down to their level, and I will draw them up again!’ For you notice, he says, when he had made the ‘golden calf’; “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord”! But the fact remains that Aaron could not wait for what was happening in the mount, and his impatience shut Aaron out of the land.

(5) Saul

Saul is the classic example of impatience in the Old Testament: the man that could not wait for God. His final setting aside was, of course, when he spared Agag – his incomplete obedience. But if you will read the history of Saul, you find that it went back earlier than that: he was rejected from being king, because he could not wait for God (1 Sam. 13:8-14). Samuel had evidently instructed Saul to wait until he came to offer the offerings. And you can picture the scene. The days are passing; the seventh day has come; the evening of the seventh day, and Samuel has not come. Saul must do something! he begins to fret, to be anxious: and he offers the offering; he cannot wait. It cost him his kingdom!

(6) The Children of Israel

They could not wait for the Lord. Now that is specifically said in the Psalms – let me read it to you. The Psalmist sums up their history like this: “The waters covered their adversaries; there was not one of them left” – that refers to the Red Sea, surely; He had done wonderful things for them – “Then believed they his words; they sang his praise. They soon forgot his works; they waited not for his counsel” (Ps. 106:11-13) – they could not wait. And again and again, in the wilderness, in the history of this people, you find them an impatient people, not prepared to wait for the Lord. And it cost them their inheritance. How important is this matter of waiting for God! Impatience cost the children of Israel their inheritance; they lost their place in the purpose of God.

Waiting Gives God His Opportunity

Now the Scripture is not lacking, on the other hand, in illustrations of the value to God of quietly waiting. There are several; I have picked out one or two.

(1) Ruth

Ruth the Moabitess. Naomi’s counsel to her was: “sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall” (Ruth 3:18). ‘Rest in the Lord’ – and how effectively she did it. Quietly, confidently, she waited for Boaz – put the matter into his hands, and then waited. Her confidence and her patience gave God His opportunity, for Ruth became, in the providence of God, the great-grandmother of David, and David was the ‘man after God’s heart’, to bring the people into the inheritance, fully; and through his son, Solomon – at least for that time – finally. They inherited. In the thirty-seventh Psalm from which we read, the Psalmist repeats this matter of inheriting several times: If we wait for the Lord, we shall inherit. Ruth waited for the Lord.

(2) David

And Ruth’s great-grandson, David, is surely the outstanding example on this side, as was Saul on the other. Go through his Psalms. If he does not mention the word ‘wait’ in a Psalm, you will find that the spirit is that of waiting for the Lord. There is a Psalm which was written in the darkest hour, when he was in the cave (Ps. 57; 1 Sam. 22:1,2), when everything seemed hopeless; if you will read the Psalm, you will find that it breathes this very atmosphere of rest in the Lord. David was one who could wait for the Lord.

(3) The Lord Jesus

But of course, if we are to see this thing at its highest and its fullest and its best, we must come to the Lord Jesus, the Man who could wait for God – and He did. He could wait until it seemed too late. Our trouble is that we put our confidence and expectation in a time or a place or an opportunity. The Lord Jesus did not: He put His confidence in God. Now the raising up of Lazarus makes that very clear (John 11). Look at the setting around Him: look at the general atmosphere. “If thou hadst been here, …”, but it is too late now! too late! They come to the tomb, and to the command, ‘Take the stone away…’ – the protest is: It is too late! The opportunity has gone! If only you had been here!

Is that not largely our trouble? If… if… if… if only the Lord would… if only the Lord would do this… if He would come just when we think He ought to. But the Lord Jesus was not resting in circumstances, not in events, He was resting in His Father. So He comes to the impossible situation, the ‘too late’ situation, and God works! God can work if we can wait.

Waiting for God is not Indifference

Now, I do want to make one thing very clear, for I am sure in some minds there is something passing like this: Yes, that is all very true, that is all right, but we can wait too long! This waiting for the Lord does not mean that we are supine, indifferent, nonchalant. I am not saying that there is never a time when the Lord says, Go forward; He does; He did with Moses: “Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward” (Ex. 14:15). When the Lord has said, Go forward, All right! To linger when God says, Forward, is unbelief. Surely the counsel of Isaiah is a true one, and a very comforting one; I want to read it to you: “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant? he that walketh in darkness, and hath no light, let him trust in the name of the Lord, and rely upon his God” (Isa. 50:10). When there is no clear, definite indication of the way, the thing to do is to wait for the Lord, not to try to press in, not to try to remedy things. Abraham tried that; Saul tried that. The thing to do is to wait for the Lord. “Wait for the Lord”. When the Lord moves, move with Him, but if He is not moving, fret not thyself.

Waiting for God is Active

That word ‘wait’ means to hope – it is an active word, not a passive word; it means, ‘to expect’, ‘to wait’, ‘to look for’, ‘to reach out after’! This word ‘wait’ has about it the nature of the actively-passive.

The Lord would have us be those who do not fret, but rest in Him, rest in the Lord. Let us face and resolve the question, once for all: Is the Lord able to do the things we desire or not? If He is, let us rest in Him; let us move out of ourselves, into Him. In New Testament language: Let us ‘Abide in Christ’. He has said: “Abide in me” – and He assures us that if we do that, the works will follow; the fruit will follow.

“Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.” (Ps. 27:14).

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LEAN NOT UNTO YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING

We question certain circumstances in our lives, and we wonder why things are the way they are.  There is comfort in knowing that we can trust the Lord with all of our sorrows.

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

Benson:

Proverbs 3:5-6. Trust in the Lord with all thy heart — Wholly and securely rely upon God’s wisdom, power, and goodness, and upon his providence and promises, for direction and help in all thine affairs and dangers.

Lean not to thine own understanding — Think not to accomplish thy designs by the strength of thine own understanding, without God’s blessing. Under this one kind of carnal confidence he understands all other kinds, such as confidence in bodily strength, wealth, or friends.

In all thy ways — Designs and undertakings, both respecting the things of this life and those of the life to come;

acknowledge him — Hebrew, דעהו, know him, namely, practically; or own him, his wisdom, by following his counsels; his power and goodness, by expecting success from him; his sovereignty, by managing all thy affairs in such a manner as to please and glorify him;

and he shall direct thy steps — So that thy ways shall be safe and good, and at last have a happy issue.

Matthew Henry:

We must trust in the Lord with all our hearts, believing he is able and wise to do what is best. Those who know themselves, find their own understandings a broken reed, which, if they lean upon, will fail. Do not design any thing but what is lawful, and beg God to direct thee in every case, though it may seem quite plain. In all our ways that prove pleasant, in which we gain our point, we must acknowledge God with thankfulness. In all our ways that prove uncomfortable, and that are hedged up with thorns, we must acknowledge him with submission. It is promised, He shall direct thy paths; so that thy way shall be safe and good, and happy at last.

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