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THE LOVE THAT IS STILL, BUT NEVER
REFRESHES IN ITS CONSTANCY
"The LORD your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save.
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing" - Zephaniah 3:17.
There is a quiet solemnity, a steady joy, a calming beatitude in His presence, an accepting assurance, a delicious joy.
Yet note the verse before this one:
"In that day, it will be said to
Do not fear;
Zion, let not your hands be weak..."
This love is no mere quiescence, nor it is frothy effervescence. It leads to action, even in its quietness, for there is much to do; but the action is one performed with an underlying awareness of the mighty arms, their irresistible power and their quietly sufficient protection for the performance of what is His desire; and that desire, it is good, for the Lord is full of goodness, mercy and lovingkindness.Yet there is an approach to the love of God, like that of a child who would pour the water from the far- off snows, out of the pipe of provision, into the dead heart of the desert. Wanton, it is often associated with reviling, as if God were reduced in wonder, because His provision is poured out in waste, not received through disbelief, cavil and criticism, as if we men were the judges and He the victim; but that, it is again, what they did to Jesus the Christ. HE has the love and mercy and power, the pardon and the protection, but Him they crucified. Now, in their false prophets, their false hearts and their false pretences, as in this new naturalism, really just rouged up a bit, that new spirituality, really just sadduceed a bit or rendered neo-Pharisaic, liberalised into religion parade, on the part of the renegade, or activated into riot or pretension - they now would do it again.
The love of God, however, never runs out. It may have the still of a large and beautiful rocky expanse in a quiet river; but it is not without intention. It may be as filled with abundance of holiness and godliness as the sky is blue; but it is not without impact. The night is coming when no man can work; the time to work is now.
The world is on wheels; it cannot
be still. It is active, but not with His activity; it reels but to dance
or squander, not to repent. Hence it grows salacious, vivacious with a
spurious charm, ostentatious about is graces, deadly in its moods and modes
of resentment and reaction: yet it will not return, for it cannot repent,
for it is in the midst of innovations, new perfumes for its witcheries,
new lovers for its adulteries of the spirit, religions by recipe, or irreligions
LESSONS FROM JEREMIAH - not merely for the head, but for the heart, the spirit, the mind of man (cf. News 41)
There is much to learn from Jeremiah in this; for ancient Israel is a pre-run, at trailer, for a whole world which now trails. Like Israel of old, IT, the GENTILE WORLD, has now had its enormous inundation with the Gospel, its marvellous exposure to the truth, and indeed the days are near of which Christ spoke when He said, "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come..." Matthew 24:14. It is coming, it looms near, its zoom seems to make it nearer yet, while the races yearn for death, make murder a pastime, truculent in rebellion, to the very tomb.
So it was with Israel. Consider this. Jeremiah - 16:5-12, where there is such a sentence of judgment as makes the ears tingle, the heart lurch, the mind saddened. "Behold I shall cause to cease from this place, before your eyes and in your days, the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness..." and this is just the beginning (cf. Matthew 24:8 - These are the beginning of sorrows). Now WHEN they ask WHY, why "has the Lord pronounced all this great disaster against us? Or what is our iniquity? or what is our sin that we have committed against the Lord our God?" Jeremiah is to reply like this: "Because your fathers have forsaken Me, says the Lord; "they have walked after other gods and have served them and worshipped them, and have forsaken Me and not kept My law. And you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, each one follows the dictates of his own evil heart, so that no one listens to Me. Therefore I will cast you out of the land..." and of course He did.
In the first instance, it was for 70 years (as in Jeremiah 25); and in the second one, it was for near to 2000 years. Each had a terminus, the first simple, and the second not given numerically, merely in its outline, essence and the events which would characterise it; until the end, when the Jews would return to Israel, recapture Jerusalem, and in Jerusalem be a 'burdensome stone' for those who would try to sling it away, as the UN did in 1947, before the Jews miraculously (literally, it was prophesied in Zechariah 12 and 14:1-2 cf. SMR Ch.9) instituted their nation again, immediately after "all the nations" made this assault.
It is hard to escape fulfilment of prophecy, since our generation is as full of it as Europe currently is full of influenza; and to some it is as unwelcome; but it is here, like morning, and the sun of its progress is not to be turned back. Yet our topic is rather the love of God in its refreshing qualities, and in particular its constant, its consistent availability, though not without the loveliness of love, which requires the readiness of heart to receive, and the resilience of spirit to accept, and the eyes to look and the mind to be open to it. To the Christian, this is one of the many refreshings, that of the unsearchable, the illimitable, the inexhaustible fountains of the love of God, which is as nearly associated with life, as the right hand with the left. Like dew upon the mown grass, it sparkles, and is for reflection, gives colours to the infusion of light...
First note that in Jeremiah 16:14ff., we read that the Lord, so far from being exhausted in His treatment of the NATION of Israel, has in store after their correction, their discipline, "I will send for many fishermen, says the Lord, and they shall fish them: and afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks" - and all this, in relief from the judgments on them, would be so monumental that "it shall no more be said, 'The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt, but 'The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven. For I will bring them back..."
Indeed, looking ahead yet further, Jeremiah notes that the GENTILES, those who DID NOT have the privileges of the show-case nation (Isaiah 43:21).
"The Gentiles shall come to You
From the ends of the earth and say,
'Surely our fathers have inherited lies,
Worthlessness and unprofitable things.'
Will a man make gods for himself,
Which are not gods?
Therefore behold, I will this once cause them to know,
I will cause them to know
My hand and My might,
And they shall know that My name is the LORD."
It proceeds in Jeremiah 17:1: "The
sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron,
With the point of a diamond, it is engraved,
On the tablet of their heart..." "Cursed is the man who trust in man
And makes the flesh his strength,
Whose heart departs from the Lord..."
But there is yet that same unstoppable resurgence of the love of the living God.
"Blessed is the man who trusts
in the Lord,
And whose hope is the Lord,
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes,
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit..." - Jeremiah 17:7-8.
And this ? It is so, One finds it so, just as it is written; the fruit is as sure as the drought; the blessing as the cursing, the readiness to bless, as, after all patience, the judgment. The roads divide; but the love of God, it continues.
Then Jeremiah visits the potter's place, notes the ruin which can come to a particular piece of pottery, which nevertheless, can then be remodelled, remoulded into something else . Thus EVEN WHEN JUDGMENT is near, and its specificities are stated, if the cause is removed the Lord is able deftly to change the scenario, and produce peace.
True, there is a point of non-return as Jeremiah 15 so dramatically shows, when there is no hope in ANY prayers from ANY one; but this is not a loss of temper, but a pronouncement of condition, as in I Timothy 4:2, where conscience may be seared as with a hot iron; and such a condition is predicted by Paul in fact to arise, as irremediable in the mass, as was the sin of Israel, which had hundreds of years to repent, just as the Gentile scenario has involved THOUSANDS, a fitting thought if you like, for the new MILLENIUM! Since so much is said of it, let us at least say THIS!
Indeed, II Timothy 4:1-3 tells of the parallel development of this, our own Gentile world, which sounds just like a play, seen at concert level, where we saw earlier the actors at rehearsal; and that rehearsal, it was Israel! We are warned! "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away form the truth, and be turned aside to fables..." - and this is happening now, and earlier books on this site have detailed it in Victoria, in the US, in South Australia and in England, in Canada, in Switzerland, in Germany, in terms of speakers and leaders of 'thought' in religion.
Fables of thought, contrary to logic, to observation, to the laws of science are indeed produced, and paraded as predicted in the most imaginative deadness ever to afflict the deserts of philosophy (cf. That Magnificent Rock Chs. 1, 8, Lead Us Not into Educational Temptation!, Repent or Perish Ch.7, A Spiritual Potpourri Chs. 1-9, Wake up World! Your Creator is Coming..., SMR pp. 857ff., 699ff.).
NOW IN THE MIDST of Israel's mess of old, when judgment was sitting on its very gates, the Lord in His LOVE was as insistent and persistent as ever and almost incredibly, gave them YET ONE MORE OPPORTUNITY for relief, yes and even for deliverance (as in principle already shown in the earlier verses of Jeremiah 18). "Now therefore," He says, "speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem saying, Thus says the Lord: 'Behold I am fashioning a disaster and devising a plan against you. Return now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good."
But what was the reaction to this sudden, impelling expression of love, of kindness ? In what way did they deliberately and with due relief turn to this amazing opportunity ? The response ? Like this: "And they said, 'That is hopeless! So we will walk according to our own plans, and we will every one obey the dictates of his evil heart." They even seemed to achieve a quiet mockery of the prophet, a sort of sinuous and sibilant sardonism, in the response. Alas for them, they would not, because they could not, mock much longer; though a remnant was spared, and spent the 70 years as learners in another nation, before they came back to rebuild, with the former glory of Israel like a dream that caused quivers in the throat ... (Ezra 3:11-13: from Ezra and Nehemiah, trace the amazing thrust of it, and see Zechariah accompany his prophecies on these things, with those for our own day - see the Bible Indexes on Action Site).
APPLYING THE LESSONS TO THE CONTEMPORARY QUAGMIRE
People may indeed POUR OUT THE LOVE OF GOD into the receptive desert of irony, sardonism, mockery, cynicism and scepticism (see SMR Ch.3 for some more detail on this, its cause and cure). This however does not stop it. It goes where it is going, and one pipe burst or worse, turned to waste in the desert of vanity like that, is no limit to the amount freely available in the others.
On such a life and liveliness, a vitality and a passion as this, in the inexhaustible love of God, listen to Isaiah 55:
"Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes come, buy wine and mile
Without money and without price.
Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And you wages for what do not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
Incline your ear, and come to Me.
"Hear, and your soul shall live.
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you -
The sure mercies of David.
Indeed I have given Him as a witness to the people,
A leader and commander for the people...
"Seek the Lord, while He may be
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his thought:
Let him return to the Lord,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abdundantly pardon."
So He says, and so He does; for He ALWAYS does what He says.
In Jeremiah 31:31ff. we come to the same mercy in the flood tide of divine love, poured out to the Gentiles and Jews alike in the everlasting covenant of which Isaiah here speaks.
It has come to our own Age. Our own Age has gone as the Jews went. We have had our revivals, our outpourings, the Gospel, and many say, There is no hope, it is hopeless, and we will walk every one after the dictates of his own heart, just as was the divinely recorded response of Israel. They lost their land in two stages; the next stage in the overall scenario is the loss of this world, in two stages, first in the return and rule of Christ, accompanied by the saints whom he has first abstracted (I Thessalonians 3:13, II Thess. 1:10, Zechariah 14:5, Matthew 24:29ff., I Thessalonians 4, Revelation 19); and then in the dismissal of the spatial framework altogether, for a new heavens and a new earth are to come, and eternity itself will be the everlasting platform for the everlasting life with its everlasting clothing of individuality and beauty, which is to come (II Peter 3). For the love of God is not short-circuited, and we have had ample warning and exhibition of things in Israel.
They, Israel, were for a wonder; and the whole world is to be for a wonder. That was the beginning; this is the end. When HE comes for His own, THAT is the end of their pilgrimage, whether they be Jew or Gentile; and the beginning of their entry into the direct view of the Lord their God (I Cor. 13, Revelation 19:8, 14:13).
But to the love of God there is no end; and in His predestination there is the absolute assurance that there is ... no mistake (Ephesians 1:4); just as the very intensity and breadth of scope of His love is the invitation which makes all excuse superfluous (Romans 8:29ff., I Timothy 2:1ff., Colossians 1:19ff.). GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD and accordingly, as I John 2:2 tells us, in language both clear and emphatic, "AND He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" - (emphasis added). True and of course, this universal offering is ON BEHALF OF - and not IN THE PLACE OF all! That is crucial.
The offering is sincere, genuine and indispensable in the integrity of God; the provision is apt, ample and adequate in the mercy of God... for ALL! THAT is what is being said. ALL do not receive it; the liberality of the cheque would be operative, as far as willingness is concerned: this is the clear teaching of John and Paul in Colossians 1. However IT IS NOT OPERATIVE, since it is not cashed; and therefore nothing changes hands for those who reject the offer, and no account is touched at all: "If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins" (John 8:24). On ACCOUNT, however, of the love of God, such a thing was available, even if it was despised:
The territory for the love is"the world", "all things, in earth and in heaven". It is so in terms of the blood of the Cross, and that blood is presented as an integral part of the plan of salvation which is what God offered in offering His Son, whom He sent in so much LOVE, and so says explicitly in John 3:16, I John 4:9-14 (both places, explicitly)!Nothing but contradiction is available for the escapist from the reality of the amplitude of the love of God. Nothing but distortion can result from his endeavours.
It is THIS which to all things in earth and in heaven is the stated and declared attitude and scope of the love of God; it is NOT this however which is the reception of all things, for many are they who trample underfoot the grace of God (cf. Hebrews 10:29, John 3:18-19,36, where you see the outcome of negativity in different dimensions). And for this, the fault is human, the restriction being divinely registered and known, foreknown and foretold; but it is humanly that this abortion is ... achieved.
This is the infallible testimony of the word of God. As Spurgeon rightly observed (On Jacob and Esau, in Romans 9, Treasury of the New Testament, Vol. III), it is ENTIRELY of grace that we who know Him are saved, but NO reflection on HIS GRACE or love that any are not: that, again rightly, he observes, would be a hideous caricature of the love of God.
Indeed, the ultimate reason for this being so, that Spurgeon
states, is not some mere irreversibility of the grace is all code, but
the fact that God actually SAYS concerning His love and grace, what would
render such a restriction on his love as some propose, an otiose, nay,
an intrusive, indeed a rebutting rambling into His word.
Let the Christian then, and therefore, rejoice in the persistent, insistent, illimitable, inexhaustible love of God, and be refreshed in its vital presence, past all competition (Romans 8:33-39, Col. 1:19ff.); and let the non-Christian heed Isaiah 55, and come, and note the response of the Jews of Jeremiah's day, "It is hopeless" and avoid it.
Hope? That is as nothing compared with the reality: Taste
and SEE that the LORD is GOOD! (Psalm 34:8).