“Yea, they spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?”
OH, fatal question! It shut Israel out of the Land of Promise, and it will do as much for you. Israel had seen the wonderful works of God, cleaving the sea, lighting the night, and giving water from rocks. Yet they questioned God’s ability to give bread, and to spread a table in the wilderness. Surely it was a slur on His gracious Providence to suppose that He had begun what He could not complete, and had done so much but could not do all.
But we are in danger of making the same mistake. Though behind us lay the gift of the Cross, the miracles of Resurrection and Ascension, the care exercised by God over our early years, the goodness and mercy of our after lives, we are disposed to say, “Can God?” Can God keep me from yielding to that besetting sin? Can God find me a situation, or provide food for my children? Can God extricate me from this terrible snare in which I am entangled? We look at the difficulties, the many who have succumbed, the surges that are rolling high, the poor devil-possessed child, and we say, If Thou canst do anything, help us!
Nay, nay, there is no If with God; there is no limit to His almightiness but thy unbelief. The words are wrongly placed. Never say again, “Can God?” but God can. Never, If Thou canst; but If I can believe. Never, If Thou canst Thou wilt; but If Thou wilt Thou canst; and Thou wilt, since Thou hast made and redeemed me, and Thou canst not forsake the work of thine own hands. Argue from all the past to the present and future. Fetch arguments for faith from the days that have gone.
“His love in time past forbids me to think He’ll leave me at last in trouble to sink.”
“How long, LORD? wilt thou be angry for ever? shall thy jealousy burn like fire?”
TO us, also, as to this longsuffering Jew, God’s dealings seem sometimes interminable. We do not understand why the cloud hangs over us so long, why the pressure of trouble lasts year after year. We cry, “How long, O Lord?” in gusts of impatience; but take care not to hurry God unduly, lest thou force Him to forego doing His best work in thy life.
This parable helped me; may it help you to be silent, still, and longsuffering. A bar of iron, worth £1, when wrought into horseshoes, is worth £2; if made into needles, it is worth £70; if into pen-knife blades, it is worth £650; if into springs for watches, it is worth £50,000. What a drilling the poor bar must undergo to be worth this; but the more it is manipulated, the more it is hammered and passed through the fire, and beaten, and pounded, and polished, the greater its value.
So with the Jews. No other nation has passed through such awful trial and discipline as they have; but no other nation was capable of yielding such wealth of service to mankind, nor affording such untold service in the highest regions.
So with ourselves. Those that suffer most are capable of yielding most; and it is through pain that God is getting the most out of us for His glory and the blessing of others. It will be all right some day. We shall see it and be satisfied. Yes, great Father, we would like to be watch-springs. Take no heed of our cry if sometimes we forget ourselves and say, How long?
“Then haste Thee, Lord! Come down, Take thy great power and reign!
But frame Thee first a perfect crown Of spirits freed from stain.”
“Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.”
THREE times we have this cry repeated in this psalm. (Vs 3, 7, 19) Again and again, and each time with some additional thought, the soul pleads for Restoration.
The Master said to Peter: When thou art converted ( i.e., turned again) strengthen thy brethren. But Peter did not realize that the Master Himself would need to turn him. He turned his back on his Lord and denied Him; but Jesus turned him back, by that look, that message from his grave mouth, that interview in the garden and on the lake-shore. He turned him face-wards to Himself, and caused his face to shine, and Peter was saved. We can be regenerated only once, but we can be converted many times. The new life is implanted once for all, and it is everlasting, inextinguishable, and permanent; but those who have been born from above, and are undoubtedly children of God, may, beneath the power of some strong fascination, turn aside, may wander in forbidden paths, may get into such a maze as to be walking in the contrary direction to that on which they started. There may even be times when our desire for God is slackened, our appetite for the Bible is lost, our soul is bound and tied with the cords of sin; at such times, let us bemoan ourselves, our folly and impotence, and cry, “Turn us again, O God,” and we shall be turned; for Thou art the Lord our God. He who at first called us to Himself must call us back: He who regenerated, must renew: He who reconciled us to God by His death, must save us by His life. When most dark, and dead, and estranged, cry with Ephraim: “Turn Thou me, and I shall be turned; for Thou art the Lord my God” (Jeremiah 31:18).
“Thou calledst in trouble, and I delivered thee; I answered thee in the secret place of thunder: I proved thee at the waters of Meribah. Selah.”
SUCH trouble as Israel passed through in the Exodus comes once in the history of a nation. From the brick-kilns and treasure-cities which they built, God’s people called to Him with strong crying and tears, extorted by insupportable sorrows. Still more did they need to cry for help when they stood between the Egyptians and the waters of the Red Sea. From the beach a nation’s call rose to God. Then was their trouble and heart-travail — a nation in throes of pain! Are you in trouble? Call upon God in the day of trouble; He will answer.
God’s answers are often in the secret place of thunder. From His pavilion of cloud God spoke in tones of thunder that pealed over the heavily-breaking surf of the Red Sea. Several of the Psalms allude to the thunderstorm that rolled through the night of the passage through the deep. The march of Israel was to the roll of thunder.
The peals of heaven’s artillery struck dismay into the hearts of the alien; but it was as though the Father was speaking to His children, the people with whom He was in covenant.
God’s answer to our prayer is often in thunder-tones that hurtle through the air. By terrible things in righteousness He answers us.
When Jesus asked the Father to glorify His name, the quiet reply, “I have … and will,” which He understood, sounded like thunder to the bystanders. Happy the child who in thunder-claps detects the Father’s voice, and in mystic characters of flame reads the Father’s handwriting! Whilst, at Sinai, the people trembled at the repeated thunder-peals reverberating above them, Moses went into the thunder-covert where God was. There is no fear in love, because perfect love casteth out the fear that hath torment.
“Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.”
THE judges and magistrates are compared in this psalm to God, because they exercise something of his power in the right ordering of human society. The Bible always inculcates respect and reverence to properly constituted authority, though it never hesitates to demand of all in authority that they should exercise their high functions impartially. Too often has the high trust been abused, and the psalmist turns with relief to the upright Judge, and comforts himself with the reflection that one day God Himself shall judge the earth, because He shall inherit all the nations.
Christ is the Firstborn and Only Begotten. As such He shall inherit all things. They were made for Him. He is the Heir. He came in His incarnation to claim His inheritance; but His claim was denied. He was cast out of the vineyard and slain; but His claims were not annulled, they remained intact. And during the present age they are being vindicated; and in answer to His appeal He is receiving the heathen for His inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession. One nation after another is becoming His province. The kings of the isles are bringing presents; the kings of Sheba and Seba are offering gifts.
It is great encouragement in missionary work to know that every nation is by right of gift and inheritance our Lord’s. He sold His all to purchase it, because His treasure was buried here. It is ours to make it His in fact. It is always easy to work on the line of the Divine purpose. God never purposes outside what is practicable and possible for man to realize. Apprehend the purpose of God, and without hesitation claim its realization.
“Keep not thou silence, O God: hold not thy peace, and be not still, O God.”
OH that God would break the silence! If He would but say one word! If we might but hear that voice — deep as the sound of many waters, and tender as the call of love — just to say that He was there; that all which we believed was true; that He was satisfied and pleased; that our perplexities would work out right at last! It is so difficult sometimes to go on living day by day without one authoritative word; and we are prone to rebuke Him for silence, that He is still, that He holds his peace. “Be not Thou silent unto me, lest I be like those that go down into the pit.”
But God has not kept silence. The Word was manifested. In Him the silence of eternity was broken. And if thou and I are still, if our ear is purged, and anointed with the blood and oil, if we make a great silence in our heart, we shall hear Him speak.
“Where is thy haunt, Eternal Voice?
The region of thy choice;
Where, undisturbed by earth, the soul Owns thy entire control.”
’Tis not where torrents are born, nor amid snowcapped peaks, nor in the break of the surf; but in the heart, weaned from itself, isolated in chambers of sickness, cast among strangers, yearning for tender voices that cannot make themselves heard — there God is no longer still. He breaks the silence. “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” (Isaiah 40;1) “It is I; be not afraid.”
(Matthew 14:27) It is always easy to detect God’s voice, because it is full of Jesus, who is the Word of God, and it is corroborated by Providence; but the heart must be still, and on the listen!
“Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”
THIS has been fitly called “the bridal of the earth and sky.”
Mercy is the love that finds its reason in itself, its measure in helplessness and ill-desert. But in God it is always blended with Truth. God must be faithful to His covenant relations, to His Son, to Himself, and to the law which He has instituted. Any display of mercy must be consistent with truth. These are heavenly twins.
Where you meet one you will be sure of the other. Jesus was full of grace and truth. The love He brings is consistent with the highest considerations; and by His death it is so arranged that God acts consistently with His holy law in loving and saving the meanest and weakest believer.
Righteousness has for her twin sister Peace. “And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.” (Isaiah 32:17) The King of Righteousness is after that the King of Peace. If you want peace, you must be right with God; and if you would be right with God, you must come to Jesus and become united to Him, who is made unto us the righteousness of God. At the cross these two kissed. The righteousness of God was satisfied, and the peace of man secured.
What a wondrous cross is that on which the Prince of Glory died! The question was — How could God be just, and yet justify the ungodly? How could He uphold the majesty of the moral law, and yet take sinners to His heart? But the answer came clear and satisfying, when the Maker of man took on Himself our sin and gave justice its due. Now see that perfect blending of the Divine attributes, and that God is “just, and the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” (Romans 3:26) Oh that truth might spring up as the response and echo of our hearts!