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and MERCY as Man
1) SEEING THE LOWLINESS WHICH ATTESTS IT
Of course, God is far more than mercy, so that when He became man, it was as more than mercy that He appeared; but not less.
The gem had many facets, and in Christ mercy is seen as man, with all the other brilliances of the glorious character of God, as symbolised in Ezekiel 1 (II Cor. 5:17-21, Philippians 2:1-12, cf. Biblical Blessings Ch. 4). It is then seen as the sprout, the shoot, the germ, the root-sprout (Keil's Commentary on Zechariah, in dealing with Isaiah 11:1).
Indeed, predictively, in Messianic terms, one of the names of Christ from Isaiah 11:1, in association with the highly correlative terms in Jeremiah 23:5 and 33:15, is sprout, shoot, branch with that emphasis, taking them synthetically, on the germinal concept, the shoot from initial root, the little, the ignored, the despised. Indeed in Isaiah 53:2, it is not merely a root-sprout, a shoot, but "out of a dry ground".
Again, it is correlative in concept with Ezekiel 17:22, where the idea of the tender, the delicate or the exposed, the apparently insignificant but mightily pregnant arises. No less does it relate to Isaiah 6:13, where the concept of a felled tree with the 'seed within it' is laid bare to the eye.
Often is seen this 'branch' this 'shoot' this 'twig', this pregnant stump, this recrudescence in infinite significance from the apparently finally axed, humbled, deprived Israel. In contrast with its depraved state, as so dwelt on in Malachi, in his series of impelling questions, and in Isaiah 30, there is in this twig, sprout, shoot, netzer, this Saviour (Isaiah 11:1 with 53:1ff.), enshrining the very glory of God. Though treated as contemptible (Isaiah 49:7, 53:1-5), His is the place to remove the iniquity of the land in one day (Zechariah 3:8-9), the figure there changing radically in form, but artistically in function, from shoot in its GROWING latency, to stone in its vulnerability to IMPRINT, that being in this case, that of the sin which it BEARS. It bears the glory equally as in Zechariah 6:12-13, where the true wonder of the Messiah is at once related.
What is a major significance of these features, leading of course to the value of Nazareth (Matthew 2:23) as the home town to give the name to Christ, the Nazarene, the sprout city man, and equally through the evident reputation of Nazareth, the despised, thus also fitting with Isaiah 53:2 ?
From the name of the town comes the significance of the name, both in its form and its standing (cf. J. Barton Payne, Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy on Matthew 2:23, The Pulpit Commentary Vol. 15, pp. 36ff. on the usage, Israel ... Neil W. May p. 231 on the archeology and No Thanks for Angst... Ch. 7). This then as per inhabitant comes to Him, 'the Nazarene', thus according to Him through this term, the post and the position prophetically, and that repeatedly ascribed: but in what way does it fit into the total perspective on Christ ?
It is this. God in all His glory is by no means unawake to the plight of man, the need of man, the case for man, the conditions of man, and has taken without admixture of concession to environment or desire, the lowliest of places, to adorn it with a glory entirely independent of luxury, the pride of place or any of the power of this world with its cherished privileges, so that any may come freely to Him (Isaiah 55, Romans 3:23ff.), none need experience social or psychic fear.
Was not the lowliest, the greatest ? Cannot therefore the lowliest come in the name of lowliness to the greatest, and has not the Greatest come in the name of mercy to the lowliest! (Philippians 2:1-12). Of course there is yet another aspect: the greatest must become lowly if he/she is to come to this root-sprout out of a dry ground. The nation was hacked to the stump as in Isaiah 6, and this is no princely appearance which the Saviour, shooting out from the root, has to offer. It is only spiritual. ONLY spiritual! God IS a Spirit!
Trust the sublime Fatherhood of God, as Creator yes (cf. Acts 17:28), but there is no potential available here except via the salvation of the Shoot, the nativity and passion of the Netzer. His glory is made apparent in its lustre, by the dulness of the site and situation adopted for His saving Son, incarnate in Mary.
This contrast of person with packaging ? it is merely the beginning. The obloquy, the derision, the dismissal as insignificant is continued with wrathful invectives and unutterable spleen, as the high-charged of this world even in the field of religion, pursue Him. Yes, they clamour in hot hunting after Him, to the death (cf. Luke 11:52ff., Matthew 27:40ff.), as if to rid the world of this shoot, this sprout, this Nazarene, this pseudo-Nazarite (cf. Judges 6, via the type of Samson, whose birth announcement is in vital harmony with that of Christ in grammatical form), to exterminate this dedicated, concentrated but unacceptable donation and dealing of God, before it should grow.
Grow however, in word, in power and in death, in resurrection and in appeal is precisely what He did, was designed to do, was destined to do, was appointed to do, came to do, proceeded to do and continues to do, as in Ezekiel's relevant prediction found in 17:23-24, correlative with Isaiah 53:2ff., 10-12, 54 and 55 where the Gospel is articulated, the application exhibited and its growth designated. Indeed, when the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the water cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14, Micah 4, Isaiah 2, 65), there will be no other name but His which is the instrument of this glory (Isaiah 11, Zechariah 6:12), for He shall bear the glory both as prince of peace (Isaiah 9:7), and priest, a Messianic double denied to mere man. He transcends man ( Micah 5:1-3, Psalm 45), and his limits; He transcends Israel altogether (Isaiah 49:6-7).
Indeed, He appears the "everlasting Father" in this, that transparent if it were possible, through Him, is the very face of God. His is the revelation, and it is neither partial as if He were an opaque light globe, nor yet so exposed as to kill: it is quiet and sure, deft and decisive, accurate and ordained (John 12:48-50, 14:9ff.), for he is the eternal word of God: so that whatever the Father does, He does in the same way as appointed (John 5:19-23). Nothing divides; nothing deludes; there is no deviation nor yet any diminution, merely the incarnation in flesh, the assumption of a humility so holy, so helpful, so outspoken concerning the love of God, that the humble find a nestling place and the unhallowed a fountain and spring to clean (Zech 3:9 with Isaiah 1 and 53 jointly, Zech. 13:1).
Thus when He declared, HOW OFTEN WOULD I HAVE GATHERED ... BUT YOU WOULD NOT! (cf. SMR Appendix B), He is not saying that this is other than the case because of some DIVERSION from God. He is GOD AS MAN, His name justly including "the everlasting Father", He truly saying, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father"... have I been so long with you and you did not know ME! to Philip's enquiry. He is saying that IF ONLY they had known that day, the pregnant power accorded to His coming, how different it would have been : but NOW their house is left to them desolate (Luke 19:42ff.), filled with grief, weeping at their stubborn refusal of the so often provided peace potential, disdained as for a thing despised.
This love of God as so express in Colossians 1:19ff. and I Timothy 2:1ff., it is not a charade or parade. It is expressed in the root-shoot out of a dry ground, in One meek and lowly, yet with a power which neither wind nor wave, sickness nor death can even touch. Indeed, He bears the power and the grace alike to cover the case, only enduring till the last dregs of evil dynamic is sopped up in His death, so removing the iniquity in ONE DAY! (as in Hebrews 9 so clearly, repeatedly and yet not repetitively!).
This is the love of the Father expressed in His eternal WORD, since one God has no puny relatives (as in Psalm 82, where such a concept is mercilessly impugned, exposed as specious and ridiculed, as also for that matter in Ezekiel 28:9).
It is now our pleasant task to consider via PSALMS 61, 142 and 143 something of the sublimity of this Fatherhood, so articulated in the Son, so illustrated in His ways, so incisively conveyed in the Cross, which with the resurrection is the end of the devil's play to make this world a tomb of truth, rather than a radiance of life: and this, not as a contemporary exhibit, for it lies yet in the evil one, but as a site for the shoot to find His branches for many birds, from all nations, who delight to dwell in its shadow and shade, its vitality and its vigour.
2) PSALM 61
BEACON AND THE FORTRESS
Readily Discerned, and Giving Discernment
It would be good to read all of this first. Here it is.
prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him!
So I will sing praise to Your name forever,
That I may daily perform my vows."
God is not summoned, yet for all that, because of His lowliness, entreated with such importunity as Christ declares not merely fitting but favoured (Luke 11:5-8). "Hear my cry!" It comes as from an unpropitious place, the "end of the earth", not favoured by location for acceptance, if location were the criterion. It is because GOD in His sublime Fatherhood is the criterion, that this is so far from being a detriment, that God can cover and overcome it readily. Hence David specifies the disadvantage with CONFIDENCE, as a child saying, My head hurts! not as a ground for fearing no help, but rather as a cause for expecting it!
"When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock which is higher than I" - and that of course as in Psalm 62:1ff., is God Himself, and HIM ALONE (there is NO other Rock); but it is GOD AS ACCESSIBLE, God who SEES, and hence God who provides. You see this foreshadowed in Genesis 22:14, where Abraham sees this as expressive aspect of the divine grace in the Lord freely, gratuitously providing the RAM as a sacrifice, substituting this for that of his son, Isaac, which was neither desired nor adequate - Psalm 49:7 and 15).
The place to prevail is there, but the need is still pressing. Lead me to the Rock which is higher than I ? The overwhelmed heart is crying for its Father!
human heart is subject to disorientation through horror, lack of adequate
spiritual foundation, desolation, amazement at ingratitude, spiritual servility,
blasphemy against God, severe trial or judicious testing (as with Job cf.
Job 9:22, SMR 95).
The speed of divine response to His children is found always sufficient for the purpose in view, and the grace sufficient for the means chosen (II Cor. 12:9). The willingness to accept the divine apportionment at once is a sign of health and an adventure in peace. Adventure ? yes, these things are no mere text-book drawl. It is a living faith in the living God which produces things at times requiring what appears a very prodigy of patience, and at others, a very marvel of comfort, a thrust of power and a speed insurmountable!
journey varies; the end does not. The requirements have phases; but the
days have grace, and the grace, it is not a mere word or some sort of moral
assignation. It is the tender loving kindness of the Lord who knowing all
things, and specifying what is right, is being followed as a Shepherd.
What is it like ? It is like the excellent and gifted dog who loves his master so much, that the mere movement to hunt or hike is treasured. What however if the dog is an alien and a self-important canine ? The plight of man without God, it is therefore one susceptible to such a loss of spiritual vision as to become like a boat in the seas, where the mists meet the rain, the rain the skies and the whole is aqueous, intermingling, mixed and multitudinous. All your waves have gone over me, says the Psalmist, and he is appalled at the vast waterfalls or waterspouts that adorn the ocean indeed in its majesty (Psalm 42:7), but toss him about like a leaf in a forest, hit by a sudden typhoon. Yet having in this case, his Rock, he is safe (42:8).
this is a vulnerability in man, it is not a crack in the Rock. Led to the
Rock which is higher than he, the Christian, the man of God is quite safe,
and the winds and storms can even become in some remote sense, enjoyable,
as the Majesty which shelters is not merely greater than the massiveness
of the trial, but the source of its power, the meaning of its aggravations,
for it is that
of the One whose word stills what it makes, as it makes what it can still. It is a sublime illustration of Fatherhood spiritual and practical both, when God the Spirit, makes the world which He created, at any moment subject to His involvement at will, and that to any desired measure, just as Christ stilled the literal storm, with a word.
Not that this is a magical style of working: it is better and more powerful, not less. For the storm is not for no reason, and the test or trial is far from irrational. Hence the appeal to God is to be considered within the purpose of the trial, and the outcome so that the intelligence and wisdom of God, infinitely profound, may still at a word, or still the heart, or bring in a series of events, episodes and deliverance which, on reflection, at the end, have more teaching power and sublime solicitude than even a direct and immediate act might have held (cf. I Cor. 10:13). God is instructed by no man, but DOES HEAR and answer such an appeal, restoring the soul, clearing the mind and nourishing the spirit in its great pilgrimage through a world so helpless, arrogant and hostile, yet so subject to His word.
Not a pill to be popped but a plea to be presented, is the need in the case! It is a personal God whose sublime Fatherhood must be approached as by a child, a son or a daughter, with entreaty, humility and a faith which invisibly reaches up the steep cliff faces should they seem to shut in, unfettered by the dynamising of Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27), so that it reaches to the very ear and heart of God!
Thus Hebrews 10:19-22 has this for us:
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.In that Christian classic of Rosalind Goforth, whose heroism with her husband is seen in Jonathan Goforth (first publ. Zondervan 1937, later Bethany House), where their involvement in the Boxer 'rebellion' is seen in its gory glory. There, in the midst of the account of a brilliantly lowly, and seemingly fully functional practical faith, there is profit for our program. Here, in fact, are some words including those of the also remarkable Mary Slessor, which show AS LABORATORY EXERCISES or principles found applicable in them, something of this Sublime Fatherhood of God.
What does not work is not true; what does work may be false, since it may not be justly tested. What, however, continually works, according to stipulated principles, does not know how to fail, and is in turn part of the independently demonstrated word of God, Himself incapable of lying (cf. SMR Ch. 1, Barbs, Arrows and Balms 6 -7, Repent or Perish Ch. 2), this finds no difficulty in presenting its testimony, whether here or there, in conflict verbal, biological or fiscal.
us then hear these practical data, an aural stimulus and a verificatory
testimony, which this present author can only echo as in this, entirely
just to practical experience.
"Prayer has been hedged about with too many man-made rules. I am convinced that God has intended prayer to be as simple and natural and as constant a part of our spiritual life as the relation between a child and his parent in the home. And as a large part of that relationship between child and parent is simply asking and receiving, just so is it with us and our heavenly Parent."In meditating on these findings, let us realise that the 'trimming of the hat' episode, appears to refer to a case where there were SPIRITUAL reasons, in the case concerned, or so they were esteemed, and not a mere frivolity with trivia, which were involved. God is very tender-hearted to His children; and it is well to remember that we ARE His children, when we are believers in Christ, not potentates, princes or prelates of power by some sort of self-importance. How hard it is to give tender ear to the self-assertive child, who almost defiles the name of child by imposing or merely clamorous conduct! How hard it is to resist the appeal of heart, with sincerity and trust, when made in truth and love!
Mrs Goforth then recalls an evening in which she and Christian friends in an amicable way vied with each other in presenting God-glorifying answers to prayer in an unforgettable flood if not riot of wonder, as the practical demonstrations of God's power and tenderness in answers to prayer, were one by one recounted!
She proceeds: "A Christian minister once said to me, 'Is it possible that the great God of the universe, the Maker and Ruler of mankind, could or would, as you make out, take an interest in such an item as the trimming of a hat! To me, it is preposterous!'
"Yet did not our Lord Jesus Christ say, 'The very hairs of your head are all numbered,' and 'not one sparrow is forgotten before God'; and again, 'Your heavenly Father knoweth what you have need of before you ask him?'
"It is true that there is nothing too great for God's power; and it is just as true that there is nothing too small for His love!"
She then quotes from Dan Crawford: "The God of the infinite is the God of the infinitesimal." This, one must concur, is the teaching of the scripture; it is the testimony of truth in action. It does of course not act where it is despised, except by divine discretion; but where it is received, it is as it is, and does as it does, and God is faithful.
Rosalind Goforth then quotes from Mary Slessor: "My life ... is one long daily, hourly record of answered prayer. For physical health, for mental overstrain, for guidance given marvelously, for errors and dangers averted, for enmity to the Gospel subdued, for food provided at the exact hour needed, for everything that goes to make up life and my poor service, I can testify, with a full and often wonder-stricken awe, that I believe God answers prayer. I know God answers prayer!"
Here we observe the 'pouring out' of the complaint, the trouble, the difficulty, the oppression, the thrust of 'fate', the enmity of circumstances. David is in a cave, we read, and that part of his life was one in which thousands of troops were bent on his destruction: one man, their thrust. In this, David is readily seen as a type of Christ, oppressed by the authorities with a disproportion at once fascinating and futile.
3) PSALM 142
GOD as the Guide, the Wisdom and the Stabiliser
Here the desired emphasis for our present purpose is found in verses 2-3, but the whole setting applies.
I cry out to the Lord with my voice;
With my voice to the Lord I make my supplication.
I pour out my complaint before Him;
I declare before Him my trouble.
When my spirit was overwhelmed within me,
Then You knew my path.
"In the way in which I walk
They have secretly set a snare for me.
Look on my right hand and see,
For there is no one who acknowledges me;
Refuge has failed me;
No one cares for my soul.
"I cried out to You, O Lord:
I said, 'You are my refuge,
My portion in the land of the living.
Attend to my cry,
For I am brought very low;
Deliver me from my persecutors,
For they are stronger than I.
" 'Bring my soul out of prison,
That I may praise Your name;
The righteous shall surround me,
For You shall deal bountifully with me.' ”
As for Christ, He rose. As to David, he was delivered. Christ prayed to His Father as we read in Hebrews 5, with great cries, and further is seen in Luke 22:44, of His anguish and mortification, His desire and His self-control, His passion and compassion wrought in flesh. Hebrews 2 specifies these things still further. The result as in Hebrews 4:15-16 is most marked:
"Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."This then allows us the better to perceive the thrust of the Psalm. "WHEN my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then YOU knew my path."
We have already considered and conceived the thrust and thrashing of tumultuous circumstances. Here we see further the specifically spiritual dynamic: the spirit itself, as itself, finds the matters of themselves so hostile, as well as adverse, intrusive, abusive, that it is all but tormented. Yet not quite so! This follows from the fact that it is released in its tension, like a spring which rebounds. That release is not of pressurised gas, as it forces the car up again, but of pressurised thought, and specialised cries as they penetrate - and are KNOWN to penetrate to the very presence of God, who is more stabilising than any program because of the double feature that HE CARES (I Peter 5:7), and He HEEDS (Philippians 4:6, Matthew 6:6-8, 7:7-8).
The third feature ? He knows what He has made (cf. Psalm 100).
Not only is this so, but David later in this very psalm is already looking BY FAITH to a deliverance allowing him to declare the facts concerning God, and to rejoice with the people of God in the presence of God, with praise, relaying what God is believed to be about to convey!
It is here that we may cite a tender illustration of the grace of God in practical living, for those whose lives are for Him, and what Christian is other ? (cf. Luke 14:27ff.).
Mrs Goforth's husband evidently had a nobility of enterprise, a tenderness of solicitude and a practicality of bearing which was remarkably apt for a missionary, and doubtless fine anywhere. However none of us, who are sinners, are lacking in nothing! In language, he had a comparative problem, and of all languages, Chinese doubtless with its many art-girded characters, is not the easiest! Feeling that unless he could contrive to gain facility better, his time as a missionary looked like being righteously truncated, that the 'pressure was on', or precisely, this: "If the Lord does not give me very special help in this language, I shall be a failure as a missionary," he went to his work. The battle was joined. The issues were teeming in the very air.
Returning hours later, he appeared with radiant face.
Yes, you have guessed it: he had a very special help. Suddenly, "sentences came to his mind as never before; and not only had he made himself understood, but some had appeared much moved ..." This marked a turning point. MISSION: given by God. NEED: essential technical facility with a foreign language. POINT: This was not his strength. PROCEDURE: PRAYER when in extreme circumstances, the situation seemed all but hopeless.
Prayer, of course: but consider WHO ELSE was praying. The narrative indicates that they later learned that JUST AT THE TIME of the newly given facility with the Chinese language, there had been concerned and drastic prayer in another country, in fact in Toronto! THEY, some students, in that place and at that time had felt such a powerful presence of God, such an intensity in prayer, that they decided to write to China to Mrs Goforth to find if there had been some significant development at that time. There had indeed been! An unknown crisis was passed in a fashion so timely as to be miraculous, so extreme as to be a transformation, so blessed as to resolve a missionary impasse.
The righteous did indeed, as with David, surround the missionary while praise was uttered; and place and space were no obstacle, for after all, these magnitudes are but creations of the God who is beyond time and space, who made both and uses either for whatever illustrative purposes He may wish, at any time, in terms of His promises, premisses and propositions! Thus Jesus healed a man's sick and cherished child or servant, at a distance, but at a time specific! (cf. Matthew 8:8-13). Elsie Salmon, mentioned in SMR (p. 339), also found the facility in prayer, for one with the gift of healing, to heal at a distance.
This, it is precisely what - given the facts - one would expect. When you send a child to school, it has fields and class-rooms. However, despite the apparent hugeness and significance, to the child, of these appurtenances of the place, they are readily dealt with at a word from the Council, or indeed, the School could change its grounds! It is the spirit which matters.
The world is made for a purpose, but its purpose is not to be intrusive, but a platform for pilgrimage, a site for teaching, an opportunity in which to find life eternal, an expression of blessing as of rebuke, a testimony to greatness, an expression of wonder. It is not intended to be an object of worship, either direct, in whole or in part, as in some febrile conception of 'fate' as if, having made itself out of nothing, it had everything. Tossing the dice, though they were not there, it noted the numbers, though they could not come, and addressing the problem, though there was none, it achieved the result, though it was not there.There is a LIMIT to irrationality, which it is better to impose! Imaginative stories are or can be much fun; but this world is not one of them. Its power is donated; its place is derived; its people are creations of God. It is the Fatherhood sublime, not the 'nature' divine, which is to the point. Confusion is merely the path to the destruction with which this world has been most palpably playing since the atomic bomb, and has found nearly enough before*1 .
As such confusion spreads, so does its cause; for the consequence accentuates the causal condition, and the provocation is increased as the results prevail, till the whole earth more and more closely resembles some giant Sodom, some expansive Gomorrah. In the flood, it reached a zenith of devastation, predicted to be disparaged by case-hardened lovers of 'fate', and inherited of fiasco (II Peter 3:3-5 as in *1). Yet they imagine, as did these cities, that it really doesn't matter, as Gilbert and Sullivan so comically attest in their own genre, it really doesn't matter. It is of small consequence.
as in progressive drama exposed in Amos 4, the results are not at all of
small consequence, and the failure to respond, as with a blister, to the
first stirrings, can lead to results so profound that they seem disproportionate.
What however is in fact disproportionate is the salient splendour of autonomy,
by which man neither will, nor does, nor in the end, can do differently
(II Thess. 2:10), but becomes as he is seen in constantly appalling modes,
a wandering vagrant to the increasingly assured destiny of his own destruction,
an absconding vagabond, even though he be dressed in prince's clothing.
Now, alas, such mapless voyagings are to be seen more and more directly
GOD seen as
The Moral Mountain,
The Goad to Goodness,
The Strength of Salvation (cf. Isaiah 33:6)
Friend, Teacher, Inspiration and Goal!
Here again our interest is more specifically in one segment, though the whole is needed for the context, verses 1-4; but 7- 8 and 10 also surge into sight, for our present purpose.
A Psalm of David.Here the special declivity of the soul, the push to the pit, comes from the enemy, from the acrid and forcible work he is performing against this servant of God. Hence upward go the prayers, and the faithfulness of God is invoked. It is not the case that suffering is excluded from pilgrimage: sin is its ultimate stimulus, and no man but Christ has ever been without sin! Even Christ suffered excruciatingly in the atonement, being cut off for the cutting off deserved by those whom He saved.
Hear my prayer, O Lord,
Give ear to my supplications!
In Your faithfulness answer me,
And in Your righteousness.
"Do not enter into judgment with Your servant,
For in Your sight no one living is righteous.
For the enemy has persecuted my soul;
He has crushed my life to the ground;
He has made me dwell in darkness,
Like those who have long been dead.
Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me;
My heart within me is distressed.
"I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all Your works;
I muse on the work of Your hands.
I spread out my hands to You;
My soul longs for You like a thirsty land. Selah.
"Answer me speedily, O Lord;
My spirit fails!
Do not hide Your face from me,
Lest I be like those who go down into the pit.
Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning,
For in You do I trust;
Cause me to know the way in which I should walk,
For I lift up my soul to You.
"Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies;
In You I take shelter.
Teach me to do Your will,
For You are my God;
Your Spirit is good.
Lead me in the land of uprightness.
"Revive me, O Lord, for Your name’s sake!
For Your righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble.
In Your mercy cut off my enemies,
And destroy all those who afflict my soul;
For I am Your servant.
However, there is no senseless suffering for the children of God (cf. Lamentations 3:33); and there is an ear to hear for their immediate needs, to complete the work which God has given them to do in the way most fitting for the gracious purpose and moving of mountains, testimony of splendour or invasion of the sterile with hope. But someone may say, I have been given no work! Then at once seek to the Father of lights to find it. No man is without His work, which He gives (cf. Romans 12, Ephesians 2 and 4), and the body is not paralysed at all! But if it is because you do not realise that God is personal, alive and possessed of a sublime Fatherhood, what is this - to call yourself a Christian ? If not, then come (John 10:9,27-28, Galatians 3, II Cor. 5:19-21 cf. That Magnificent Rock Chs. 2 and 3). But if you merely have grown a little cold and forgetful, then operate at once, proceed according to the program, the precepts and the promises. Do not presume to call yourself a kid, and forget the Father!
A relative of mine was once lent a car by my parents, and destroyed its automatic gearing by failing to have it serviced. The cry, in effect, on finding the wreckage ? I did not know it had to be touched! Strange this should be the case in a practical and educated woman; but still stranger that one would not ENQUIRE concerning a loan, to find the way best to treat it. Our bodies and minds are loans. Our spirits are given opportunities in this pilgrimage. They have liberties but not licence; they have opportunities but not autonomy.
They reek with powers, but should be bereft of pride: WE did not make them! We should glorify Him who did (cf. SMR Ch. 2, A Spiritual Potpourri Chs. 1-9 etc.). We should also HAVE THEM REGULARLY SERVICED, and prayer is one of the chief modes for this!
Indeed, the children of the devil (not always bearing tags which even they can see, as with Judas!), and often highly placed, even in some churches (cf. II Peter 2), may bring calumny upon calumny and oppression as its ilk, to the children of God, and often delight in it (cf. Psalm 55, 73:9-12, Isaiah 1); but this is not the end. It is not the ocean without its Maker, but the turbulence with its agent, the prince of darkness, at work; and if you have long known man, you should become aware of that darkness, for when it is there, as Christ put it, HOW GREAT is that darkness.
In His terms: If the light that is in you be darkness,how great is that darkness. Even the populous ocean, however, for all the tornadoes, is not its own. There is a voice and a power, a way and a purpose, and it is the end of man to find it, follow it and finish this.
Let us however return to our Psalm.
David was to be King, and what an apprenticeship, waiting on God, looking after those who followed Him as 'rebels', and awaiting the divine operation to fulfil his calling. So has the author done when similarly treated in his day, and so does the Lord continuously deliver; but not without suffering, and not without requiring patience here, and fast action there, as He with David acted in His supremely pitiful Fatherhood, and immensely competent paths! These have to be followed!
Thus although David was overwhelmed, and felt like one long dead (Psalm 143:3), out of mind, free among the dead, as it is elsewhere written: yet God heard him. Overwhelmed in the flesh, he was sustained in the spirit, and how great is the glory which the Lord can infuse into the soul, when it is persecuted markedly and notably for His own sake, and that of His word, indeed His Gospel (cf. I Peter 4:13-14).
This time, throughout our present Psalm, we see steps. First David exposes his condition to God; then he reviews God's former mercies, actions, deliverances and power usages for him; then he delivers that lovely prayer, CAUSE ME TO HEAR YOUR LOVINGKINDNESS IN THE MORNING. It is not far off. As sleep refreshes the body, and the mind also, so the help of God is not far off!
is not all. The psyche is not the end of it. CAUSE
ME TO KNOW THE WAY IN WHICH I SHOULD WALK.
Nor however is it divorced; the reason being given FOR
I LIFT UP MY SOUL TO YOU. This is not tendential.
It is terminal. The need is KNOWLEDGE, in the midst of an inferno of incendiary
blazes. HOW and WHERE do I go! CAUSE me to know! The method is not stated;
the means are not stipulated: the RESULT is. It is left to God to be God;
it is left to David to be the willing recipient of whatever action the
Lord in His fatherly wisdom sees fit to take. ONE THING only is requested:
that God acting as cause, will produce in David the specified result. That
? that he will hear the lovingkindness of personal interchange and
intercourse, communion as faith meets Father; and secondly, that
David lifts his soul to God, so God will lift the mist and CAUSE him to
know the way. There is no question of limits.
David is not saying this: Since I am afflicted and suffer trauma, the case is difficult, but if you CAN do something, would you kindly help ? Nor is he asking, If you only knew how my arthritis hurts... but I suppose you do: anyway, please do something within my limited powers to get me on with things. Not at all. It is to be caused, made to happen. The result is limited by precisely NOTHING. You see the opposite condemned in Psalm 78, where they LIMITED the Holy One of Israel, so inheriting shame (78:22,32,41,56-57).
However there is more. Perhaps there are actual lessons needed. It may be that some flaw in your life is now semi-systematic, some feature is out of focus, and needs to be addressed. TEACH me to do Your will. Perhaps some facet is not noticed, and needs focus! It is ONLY GOD who is equipped to provide in such a case. Certainly, in doctrine, a minister may help; but when it comes to the interstices, the intimate realities of one's spirit, then God only knows, for who can know the human heart but He (Jeremiah 17:9-10)!
Thus this cry for "teaching" is conjoined with the reason, "FOR You are my God!"
Then in entire loveliness, David finds in his spirit this statement, "Your Spirit is good!"
How readily the experimental soul, the one much used to the laboratory of faith can endorse such a verbal quartet. THE LORD IS GOOD and the LORD IS GOD ring out as fundamentals, and it is all expressed in Jesus the Christ. There it is personal, there its plan of salvation is implemented, there its power is express, its compassion intimate and its result dramatic. Back then to basics.
It is only when it is realised that God is the source, original and dynamic of all goodness, not that stuffy and servilely obtained self-righteousness of the Pharisee, or that inherent neutrality of the Buddhist, that no-god, soap and sop for the soul (cf. SMR pp. 1011-1026), but goodness that is Fatherly, favourable and to be found: it is only then that one is ready. It is only, moreover, when one has found and discovered it, where it IS to be found, that one is ready. It is found in Him, where He has appointed Himself ready to receive, in His Son, whom He sent as the Saviour of the world (I John 4:14, 5:12). He who has the Son has life and he who does not, lacks it.
It is in other words, only when Christ the word of God, shows you the work of God, and you receive the foundation, for any superstructure, and the information for any understanding, yes and the stimulus for any apprehension, that you are equipped to be led into and inthe land of uprightness. The Kingdom of Heaven is neither visible nor accessible to those not born from God by His Spirit, indeed by His word (I Peter 1:23, John 3:1-10 cf. The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 2).
It is merely for them a phrase, a word, a concept. It is nothing. It is for such, a land never visited: seen in the tourist brochures, it is for them, a photo only. In prayer, for the founded soul, by acute and crucial contrast, there is a whole kingdom of love and peace, self-control and wonder, amazing power and personal interchange with divinity, with His plans and specifications all wrought and substantially revealed in the Bible, its Head accessible, suitable, sufficient and comely for the body; and His ways are those of unspeakable loveliness.
But what is it like ? It is like a land for many never visited, never found, where the site is unseen, the glory unknown. In ignorance, they continue to the grave, as if grace were the enemy, and as if spiritual obloquy, far from oblivion, were desirable. For man, death is more than cessation; it is preparation; for justice is not defunct, while Christians suffer (Revelation 6:19ff.), and the world does not turn for the fun of it .
It is God the Judge and not this fiasco, 'fate' the father, who is to be faced. The discernment of the operational facilities of the stage on which life is wrought, is no more a preparation for the Stage Manager after the action, than is a school desk a fitting reply to the Principal when he calls you!
Acutely aware, David neither sinks into the delirium of insulting God by making it look as if the outcome is not certain, nor by letting the incoming events look as if they were not drastic, as indeed they were. "Rejoice with trembling" (Psalm 2) is the scriptural prescription: for neither complacency nor faithlessness is apt, but conviction and assurance with grace and esprit!
Hence he 'longs' for God in the deep recesses, the ravines and valleys of his soul (Psalm 143:6). Believingly crying for deliverance from judgment as he feels the claws of those who would love to be his 'fate', he finds instead his Father. NONE among men are justified by their own works (Psalm 143:2); so it is in the mercy of God that he trusts (Psalm 9:10, 13:5). THAT is reliable; our works are not. We are not self-assessed (Ephesians 2:1-12).
Nor does David simply trust in his own spiritual vitality: REVIVE ME, he cries (Psalm 143:11). He realises that there has been a huge rut into which he has bounced, and he needs action to restore his life to its normal resilience. He expects to get it. it is the wonder of the fatherly tenderness of God, that He does not fail (cf. Isaiah 40:26ff.). His grandeur is such that His love is wholly parallel with it, for a grand Spirit is His, and a grand heart and a grand loveliness, a grand justice and a grand mercy. It is only when contest is made with Him, as though heaven could be improved by the sins of hell, that the trouble is intensified to seven times!
Otherwise, whatever the affliction, the grace and the glory is greater; for with such a Father as this, His lovingkindness if better than life (Psalm 63:3). When the heart is safe, the soul has courage from comfort, the purposes are pure, the end is assured, and what does it really matter if there is fierce conflict, or intolerant opposition! Poor things, they have their reward unless they also repent, so that is the aim, rather than their mere obliteration (cf. Psalm 83:16). Nevertheless, if they persist, it is the will of God which they fight, as Gamaliel so rightly saw when Christ was subjected to the gross infamies of the religioius bureaucracy of the time; and there is no help for them, though they flourish a little for a while, till the night comes (cf. Acts 5:38-39).
Meanwhile, we see that there are times when rapid action is needed for the children of God, and what Father does not know this! Hence "deliver me speedily"! (Psalm 143:7). And how faithful was David himself when he twice could have killed Saul, once even in the light of day, and in doing so, to many seemed to have shown valour with glamour.
Nevertheless, He did not do it, nor did he elect in clottish loutishness, to become his own deliverer by any such means; and why ? It was because he respected criteria beyond his skin, past all his sin and beyond his own scale of greatness: those of God Himself. He would not stretch forth his hand against the Lord's anointed, though that poor king, Saul, was in such a declivity of evil as would lead to his royal death in the near approaching future! Speed is not the criterion; but when it applies, when the need is to give and not to withhold, then it is known, and the right course specified, the needed response rapidly supplied.
of supreme character, as with Job, may come; but these too have their times,
though in the midst of a test, it is not always a simple thing to realise
the construction of the thing, and hence to estimate the needs of the task!
(Cf. Job, in SMR pp. 95, 358,
speed is found always sufficient for the purpose in view, and the grace
sufficient for the means chosen (II Cor. 12:9). The willingness to accept
the divine apportionment at once is a sign of health and an adventure in
peace. Adventure ? yes, these things are no mere text-book drawl. It is
a living faith in the living God which produces things at times requiring
what appears a very prodigy of patience, while providing at others, a very
marvel of comfort. The journey varies; the end does not. The requirements
have phases; but the days have grace, and the grace, it is not a mere word
or some sort of moral assignation. It is the tender loving kindness of
the Lord who knowing all things, and specifying what is right, is being
followed as a Shepherd.
is it like ? It is like the excellent and gifted dog who loves his master
so much, that the mere passage through bogs, the mere tearing of thorns
is not the point at all. Rather it is the question, Where
in your excellent spirit do you desire us to go now ? and
at times, It would be such a marvel of kindness
if I could only understand a little better, but till then, here we go,
dear Master, in the ways I know so well! Yours ... There
are indeed many such dogs ... The parody is this, that so many intending
to be gods, fail to be men.
DAVID AT KEILAH
You see something of this in the notable case of King David, at another time in his adventurous life, wondering whether he would go and defend a city of his own nation, though its king at that very time seeking to destroy him, with national troops engaged against him, to boot! What did he find by prayer ? It was this. God told him to go and deliver the city. That, obediently and in faith, he did. Then David gained news that the antagonist, Saul, was going to march on the city he had just delivered. Next ? Of course, prayer came next. WOULD the people deliver him up to the king if the monarch came and took the place ? Yes, he would. David was not in this instance, to be a martyr, to the point of death, but an example of grace, and to become king: and so the evacuation was controlled, wise and effective.
lived. Saul, shortly afterwards, did not. (Read of this in I Samuel 23,
for it is a very program for prayer! in principle; as Saul's procedure
is the anti-program, seen in I Samuel 28:6ff.).
Goforths ON MISSION
We come now to the illustration of these spiritual things, afforded in the book noted above, Jonathan Goforth (first published in 1937 by Zondervan, later by Bethany House). In this, during the Boxer Rebellion so famed around 1900, with the imperial edicts coming loud and clear (even if one was at one stage mercifully altered by an official, with great courage, in a telegram to be forwarded broadly), there was a tumult and a seething that rather reminds one of the Red Guard episode in the following century. How little does 'culture' help when the heart is unfounded, in that century in this, in this nation or in that!
What then ? In this Boxer Rebellion, humanity in China was seething: with hostile crowds slaughtering missionaries with bestial abandon, there was often a covetous and debased disregard of humanity such that to one group, whose disgraceful disregard of a lady was an incendiary incitation, the assaulted missionary husband, despite the danger, proceeded to rebuke them, in some such way as this: You look like men, but do not seem to have the normal qualities of your kind! (Glover, as in A Thousand miles of miracle in China.)
In fact, Glover after 1000 miles of all but incredible endurance in the Boxer Rebellion, escaped, and lived to 95 years of age! being a testimony of the power of God, as much as was his wife, who also successively endured those terrible torturers, a living testimony of grace, composure and perseverance, trust and joy in the Lord, which speaks to this day. This is not lost! though she died soon after the deliverance, in the midst of her own people. The children who had endured the saga lived, and as an expression of trust and grace in childhood, the record of these must live as an annal in itself!
That last named book, incidentally, is replete with just such illustrations of the principles noted above, as illustrate them in significant depth! For the meantime, however, let us return to Jonathan Goforth. In this case, we see the missionary group, with young, proceeding in the midst of the lunging crowds, the seas of surliness, the storms of insults, the depths of depravity about like sulphurous fires, stoked for vicious torment (and let us face it, Britain in its trade aspect had CAUSED some of the hatred felt, showing the folly of a national church, when the nation is itself not really Christian). Mr Goforth was hit on the head so that it was later declared medically amazing that his skull was not cut in two, and a wound on his neck was left, so that the very assailants, confronted by Mrs Goforth, left him for as good as dead. No, leave them alone, was the gist of their speech, for we have killed her husband!
He did not however die, but declaring this, "Only pray. The Lord will give me strength as long as he has work for me to do!" he went forward after receiving even more blows: this, after they had been delivered and rested a little.
Then, as if this were not enough (you recall our verbal theme, dwelling on 'overwhelmed' ?), by faith they continued, only to hear of a plan to send them out with a security 'guard' who would by secret plan, conduct them to a place where armed men had been planted, so that these could slay them on the way, when nothing could be shown. Thus others could be blamed, and bureaucracy could go on its crazy-seeming way, alert to its own interests, without heart, getting ahead in an unknown direction as is so often its gift. In fact, however, the guards fell asleep since one of the party was not present, while they waited; and when they left, these drowsy guards forgot to take the fatal turning, prescribed in the murderous plan, so that their efforts were in vain.
It is the unaccountability of tyranny at such times which is one of its principal horrors, enormities and deformities alike.
When eventually the missionary party reached the next oppressive city, with its prying crowds, its scarcely restrained violence (they had already seen children within inches of death, Mrs Goforth parrying knives with pillows in a tumultuous situation, while they were often been robbed), they were delivered once more by a new means. People arrived, some who knew them and were of an authority sufficient to be able to bring them out of the chaotic seeming confusion; and by these means, they continued on their way once more, in the midst of wounds enough to cause death, harassment enough to cause calamity in itself, and the seething chanting or explosive words of many, some alert with greed, some dead with hatred.
After deliverance, they returned
home, challenging their people concerning the need in China, and then came
the return, the revivals in China and the tumults of quite another kind,
remarkable in the annals of salvation.
THE PITH AND THE POINT
In all these things, one finds the solace of the Spirit, the comfort of Christ, the paternal relish of the Lord, the delight in suffering, if need be, for His name (Acts 5:41), the testimony that irks the complacent, challenges the dawdling and awakens the slumberous, cutting in its impact, through 1000 skins, or titanium reinforced hearts. God loves. His people love Him, and if to win some, they must suffer, what of it ? It is not for ever. It is for a good purpose; it is the sort of thing that love endures with wisdom and wit endorses with content!
Is life then for comfort ? To what end ? Is it for gain ? to what purpose ? It is eternal so that its meaning must be found, it purpose achieved, its grace given and its wonder realised. If not, then that is a death which makes the stench of a corpse, not merely pleasant by comparison, but a relief.
Once established in understanding, and hence in the very favour and friendship of God, the soul is sent on many wars, while at peace; is given many comforts, even if assaulted; is cherished though the wailing of the lost is orchestrated and set to heavy metal; is relieved when it is necessary, is unrelieved when this is the message to be given (as Christ, the only Redeemer, was unrelieved, since relief would have been defeat); is always restored (Psalm 23). Even when purged of impurity (as in II Corinthians 1), where the trust has lapsed from its proper terms of acuteness (a simple thing really! the complexity is as so often, in its diseases!), there is a restoration like that of a mother, as seen in Isaiah 40:1: "Comfort you, comfort you, My people, says your God. Speak comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry to her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned..."
The practice fits the program; the laboratory fits the text book; the life fits the Saviour; the reliefs fit the program; the deliverances (which are many) fit the power, and the need to be alive and alert, this fits the war, for we do not fight with flesh and blood, but with spiritual forces. The spiritually dead, they do not even know that there is a war on. They marvel at the Middle East, worry about Russia, consider Iraq, think of China; but they have no relief; for in this world there IS no relief for sin, mutual or singular self-aggrandisement, none for illusion, nor any for delusion or devilry of all kinds.
For such, there IS no solution; and that, not the stupidity of man, who is often very clever, is the principle reason why it is never found! as why it is often tried, though it be absent, with a radical buffoonery which would be comic if it were so tragic in claiming so many victims. Without God, man is not - is a never-was; and when he pretends to be all on his little lonesome, then his pretence is only delusion, often oscillating between the pretentious and the demented, and this with wider arcs as time moves on.
This too, it is verification. That is the end however of most of its serviceability. Ugly as an imaginary and deformed gnome, illicit as ozone-destroying vapours, foolish as theft and evil with an ancestry from Eden, and a destiny in justly prepared hell, it is the state of the world, under its proud ruler (John 14:30).
this, no prayer suffices. Only repentance is the lead (Luke 13:1-3). This,
for one man or woman, for one child or one nation, like Israel (Zech. 12:10),
it is required. There is no alternative. And WHEN you repent, it is Christ
the Saviour; there is no option. But WHEN you come, there is no Father
like this One, mighty in power, excellent in praises, doing wonders. Just
to be with Him, it is delight. To work for and with Him, it is the very
structure and essence of privilege, and to have Christ as a brother, incarnate
into our very format, why this is fellowship divine.
*1 Cf. II Peter 3:3-5 and News 74, p. 104, Joyful Jottings 8, Divine Agenda Ch. 4; Answers to Questions Ch. 5. See also Ancient Words, Modern Deeds Chs. 9 and 13.
*2 See for example Barbs, Arrows and Balms Appendix I, Youth on the High Seas.