"But You are the same — and Your years will never end." — Psalm 102:27
What a fountain of comfort is to be found in the Immutability of God! Not one ripple can disturb the calm of His unchanging nature. Were it so, He would no longer be a perfect Being — He would un-deify Himself — He would cease to be God!
Change is our portion here on earth. "They shall perish!" is the brief chronicle regarding everything on this side Heaven. The skies above us, the earth beneath us, the elements around us shall be destroyed. "All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll! The stars will fall from the sky like withered leaves from a grapevine, or shriveled figs from a fig tree!" Isaiah 34:4
Scenes of hallowed endearment — they have fled! Friends who sweetened our pilgrimage with their presence — they are gone! But here is a sure and safe anchorage amid the world's heaving ocean of vicissitude: "But You are the same — and Your years will never end." All is changing — but the Unchanging One! The earthly scaffolding may give way — but the living Temple remains. The reed may bend to the blast — but the living Rock spurns and outlives the storm!
How blessed, especially, to contemplate the unchangeableness of our Great High Priest, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever!" True, He is, in one sense, "changed." No longer the Man of sorrows; no longer the homeless wanderer. He is enthroned amid the glories of Heaven. Seraphs praise Him — Saints adore Him. But His Heart knows no change. His ascension glories have not obliterated His tender human sympathies. We can think of Him receiving an outcast sinner, or stilling the storm, or standing at the gate of Nain, or weeping tears of pity over a lost city, or tears of sympathy over a buried friend — and write over all these, "You are the same!" The name which He bequeathed by angels to His Church until He comes again is, "that same Jesus!" His own Patmos title is His memorial for all time, "I AM He who lives!"
Believer! has He ever seemed to change towards you? Are you even now mourning over the withdrawal of that countenance whose smile is heaven? Are you saying in the bitterness of your spirit, "Has the Lord forgotten to be gracious?" The change is with yourself — and not with your God. Behind the clouds of your own departure, the Sun of His love shines brightly as ever. "He faints not, neither is weary."
Or, it may be, you are laboring under severe trials. The hand of your God may be heavy upon you. The secret thought may be harbored that some tear might have been spared; that your chastisement might have been less severe — that your bereavement, with its dark accompaniment, might have been mitigated or averted. Look upwards and take the Psalmist's antidote as your own, "I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High God." Think that the same Hand which for you was nailed to the Cross — is now pleading for you on the Throne; ordering and controlling every trial; and over every dark providence writing the unanswerable challenge, "He who spared not His own Son — but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?"
Oh! thus pillowing your head on the Immutability of Jesus, amid the crude buffetings of a changing world, you will be able to say — until the dawn of the morning breaks on you, which knows neither night nor vicissitude, "I will both lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me live in safety!" — Psalm 4:8
"The Lord reigns!" Psalm 93:1
No rainbow of promise in the "dark and cloudy day" shines more radiantly than this. God, my God, the God who gave Jesus — orders all events, and overrules all for my good! "When I," says He, "send clouds over the earth." He has no wish to conceal the hand which shadows for a time earth's brightest prospects. It is He alike who "brings the cloud," who brings us into it, and in mercy leads us through it! His kingdom rules over all. "The lot is cast into the lap — but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord." He puts the burden on, and keeps it on — and at His own time will remove it!
Beware of brooding over second causes. It is the worst form of atheism! When our most fondly cherished gourds are smitten; our fairest flowers lie withered in our bosom; this is the silencer of all reflections: "The Lord prepared the worm!" When the temple of the soul is smitten with lightning, and its pillars rent: "The Lord is in His holy temple!" Accident, chance, fate, destiny — have no place in the Christian's creed. He is no unpiloted vessel left to the mercy of the storm. "The voice of the Lord is upon the waters!" There is but one explanation of all that befalls him: "I will be silent, I will not open my mouth, because You are the One who has done this!"
Death seems to the human spectator, the most capricious and severe of all events. But not so! The keys of Death and Hell are in the hands of this same reigning God! Look at the parable of the fig-tree. Its prolonged existence, or its doom as a cumberer, forms matter of conversation in Heaven; the axe cannot be laid at its root — until God gives the warrant! How much more will this be the case regarding every "Tree of Righteousness, the planting of the Lord?" It will be watched over by Him, "Lest anyone hurt it." Every trembling fiber — He will care for; and if made early to succumb to the inevitable stroke, "Who does not know — that in all these things, that the hand of the Lord has wrought this." Be it mine to merge my own will in His; not to cavil at His ways, or to seek to have one jot or tittle of His will altered; but to lie passive in His hands; to take the bitter as well as the sweet, knowing that the bitter cup is mingled by One who loves me too well to add one bitter ingredient that might have been spared!
Who can wonder that the sweet Psalmist of Israel should seek, as he sees it spanning the lower heavens, to fix the arrested gaze of a whole world on the softened tints of this Rainbow of Comfort, "The Lord reigns — let the earth rejoice!"
THE GLORY OF GOD
"Before the mountains were born or You brought forth the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God!" — Psalm 90:2
O My Soul! Seek to fill yourself with thoughts of the Almighty. Lose yourself in the impenetrable tracts of His Glory!
"Can you by searching find out God?" Can the insect fathom the ocean, or the worm scale the skies? Can the finite comprehend the Infinite? Can the mortal grasp Immortality? We can do no more than stand on the brink of the shoreless sea, and cry, "Oh the depth!"
"From everlasting!" — shrouded in the great and amazing mystery of eternity! Before one star revolved in its sphere — before one angel moved his wing — God was! His own infinite presence filling all space. All time, to Him, is but as the heaving of a breath — the beat of a pulse — the twinkling of an eye!
The Eternity of bliss, which is the noblest heritage of the creature, is in its nature progressive. It admits of advance in degrees of happiness and glory. Not so the Eternity of the Great Creator; He was as perfect before the birth of time — as He will be when "time shall be no longer!" He was as infinitely glorious when He inhabited the solitudes of immensity alone — as He is now with the songs of angel and archangel sounding in His ear! But "who can show forth all His praise?" We can at best but lisp the alphabet of His glory. Moses, who saw more of God than most, makes it still his prayer, "I beseech You, show me Your glory!" Paul, who knew more of God than other men, prays still, "that I may know Him." "Our safest eloquence concerning Him," says Hooker, "is our silence, when we confess that His glory is inexplicable."
And is this the Being to whom I can look up with sweetest confidence — and call "My Father"? Is it this Infinite One, whom "the Heaven of Heavens cannot contain," I can call "My God"?
Believer, contemplate the medium through which it is you can see the glory of God, and yet live. "No man has seen God at any time, the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has revealed Him." He who dwells in inaccessible light, comes forth from the pavilion of His glory in the person of "Immanuel, God with us." In Christ, "the Image of the invisible God," the creature — yes, sinners — can gaze unconsumed on the lusters of Deity! Be it yours to glorify Him. Seek thus to fulfill the great design of your being. Let all your words and ways, your actions and purposes, your crosses and losses, redound to His praise. The highest seraph can have no higher or nobler end than this — the glory of the God before whom he casts his crown.
But He has a claim on you, which He has not on the unredeemed angels. "He gave Himself for you!" This mightiest of all boons which Omnipotence could give, is the guarantee for the bestowment of all lesser necessary blessings, and for the withholding of all unnecessary trials. While you are called to behold "His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father," remember its characteristic; it is not a glory to appall you by its splendors — but to win and captivate you by its beauties — it is "full of grace and truth." He is your God in covenant. "Underneath are the everlasting arms." You may compose yourself on your nightly pillow, with the sweet pledge of security, and say, "I will both lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me live in safety!" — Psalm 4:8
As your days — so shall your strength be." — Deuteronomy 33:25
God does not give grace — until the hour of trial comes. But when it does come — the amount of grace, and the nature of the special grace required, is granted. My soul! do not dwell with painful apprehension on the future. Do not anticipate coming sorrows; perplexing yourself with the grace needed for future emergencies; tomorrow will bring its promised grace — along with tomorrow's trials.
God, wishing to keep His people humble, and dependent on Himself, does not give a stock of grace; He metes it out for every day's exigencies, that they may be constantly traveling between their own emptiness — and Christ's fullness; their own weakness — and Christ's strength. But when the exigency comes, you may safely trust an Almighty arm to bear you through!
Is there now some "thorn in the flesh" sent to lacerate you? You may have been entreating the Lord for its removal. Your prayer has, doubtless, been heard and answered; but not in the way, perhaps, either expected or desired by you. The "thorn" may still be left to goad, the trial may still be left to buffet; but "more grace" has been given to endure them. Oh! how often have His people thus been led to glory in their infirmities, and triumph in their afflictions — seeing that the power of Christ rests more abundantly upon them! The strength which the hour of trial brings — often makes the Christian wonder to himself!
"Come now, let us reason together," says the Lord. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool." — Isaiah 1:18
My soul! your God summons you to His audience chamber! Infinite purity seeks to reason with immense vileness! Deity stoops to speak to dust! Do not dread the meeting. It is the most gracious — as well as most wondrous of all conferences. Jehovah Himself breaks silence! He utters the best tidings a lost soul or a lost world can hear, "God is in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing unto men their trespasses." What! Scarlet sins, and crimson sins! and these all to be forgiven and forgotten! The just God "justifying" the unjust! — the mightiest of all beings, the kindest of all!
Oh! what is there in you to merit such love as this? You might have known your God only as the "consuming fire," and had nothing before you except "a fearful looking for of vengeance!" This gracious conference bids you to dispel your fears! It tells you that it is no longer a "fearful thing," but a blessed thing to fall into His hands! Have you consented to His overtures? Until you are at peace with Him, happiness must be a stranger to your bosom.
Though you have all else beside, if bereft of God — you must be bereft indeed! Lord! I come! As yourpardoning grace is freely offered, so shall I freely accept it. May it be mine, even now, to listen to the gladdening accents, "Son! Daughter! be of good cheer! Your sins, which are many — are all forgiven!"
THE POWER OF PRAYER
"Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said,"
"Whatever you shall ask in my name, that will I do — that the Father may be glorified in the Son." — John 14:13
Blessed Jesus! it is You who has unlocked to Your people the gates of prayer. Without You, they must have been shut forever. It was Your atoning merit on earth that first opened them; it is Your intercessory work in Heaven that keeps them open still.
How unlimited the promise — "Whatever you shall ask!" It is the pledge of all that the needy sinner requires — all that an Omnipotent Savior can bestow! As the great Steward of the mysteries of grace, He seems to say to His faithful servants, "Take your request, and under this, My superscription, write what you please." And then, when the blank is filled up, He further endorses each petition with the words, "I WILL do it!"
He further encourages us to ask "in His name." In the case of an earthly petitioner there are some pleas more influential in obtaining a benefit than others. Jesus speaks of this as forming the key to the heart of God. As David loved the helpless cripple of Saul's house "for Jonathan's sake," so will the Father, by virtue of our covenant relationship to the true Jonathan (lit., "the gift of God"), delight in giving us even "exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think."
Reader, do you know the blessedness of confiding your every need and every care — your every sorrow and every cross — into the ear of the Savior? He is the "Wonderful Counselor." With an exquisitely tender sympathy, He can enter into the innermost depths of your need. That need may be great — but the everlasting arms are underneath it all. Think of Him now, at this moment — the great Angel of the Covenant, with the censer full of much incense, in which are placed your feeblest aspirations, your most burdened sighs — the odor-breathing cloud ascending with acceptance before the Father's throne. The answer may tarry — these your supplications may seem to be kept long on the wing, hovering around the mercy-seat. A gracious God sometimes sees it fitting thus to test the faith and patience of His people. He delights to hear the music of their importunate pleadings — to see them undeterred by difficulties — unrepelled by apparent forgetfulness and neglect. But He will come at last — the pent-up fountain of love and mercy will at length burst out — the soothing accents will in His own good time be heard, "Be it unto you according to your word!"
Soldier of Christ! with all your other armor, do not forget the weapon, "All-prayer." It is that which keeps bright and shining "the whole armor of God." While yet out in the night of a dark world — while still camping in an enemy's country — kindle your watch-fires at the altar of incense. You must be Moses — pleading on the Mount; if you would be Joshua — victorious in the world's daily battle. Confide your cause to this waiting Redeemer. You cannot weary Him with your importunity. He delights in hearing. He is glorified in giving. The memorable Bethany-utterance remains unaltered and unrepealed, "I know that You hear Me always." He is still the "Prince that has power with God and prevails" — He still promises and pleads — he still He lives and loves!
THE COMFORTING ASSURANCE
Acts 20:35, "Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said,"
"Your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things." — Matthew 6:32
Though spoken originally by Jesus regarding temporal things, this may be taken as a motto for the child of God amid all the changing vicissitudes of his changing history. How it should lull all misgivings; silence all murmurings; lead to lowly, unquestioning submissiveness, "My Heavenly Father knows that I have need of all these things!"
Where can a child be safer or better — than in a father's hand? Where can the believer be better — than in the hands of his God? We are poor judges of what is best for us. We are under safe guidance with infallible wisdom. If we are tempted in a moment of rash presumption to say, "All these things are against me!" let this "word" rebuke the hasty and unworthy surmise. Unerring wisdom and Fatherly love, have pronounced all to be "needful."
My soul, is there anything that is disturbing your peace? Are providences dark, or crosses heavy? Are spiritual props removed, creature comforts curtailed, gourds smitten and withered like grass? Write on each, "Your Father knows that you have need of all these things!" It was He who increased your burden. Why? "It was needed." It was He who crossed your worldly schemes, marred your cherished hopes. Why? "It was needed." A pleasant flower in the coveted path — it was supplanting Himself — He had to remove it! There was some higher spiritual blessing in communion with God.
Seek to cherish a spirit of more childlike confidence in your Heavenly Father's will. You are not left unfriended and alone to buffet the storms of the wilderness. Your Marahs as well as your Elims are appointed by Him. A gracious pillar-cloud is before you. Follow it through sunshine and storm. He may "lead you about," but He will not lead you wrong. Unutterable tenderness is the characteristic of all His dealings. "Blessed be His name," says a tried believer, "He makes my feet like hinds' feet" (literally, "equals" them), "He equals them for every precipice, every ascent, every leap."
And who is it that speaks this quieting word? It is He who Himself felt the preciousness of the assurance during His own awful sufferings, that all were needed, and all appointed; that from Bethlehem's cradle to Calvary's Cross — there was not an unnecessary thorn in the crown of sorrow which He, the Man of Sorrows, bore. Every drop in His bitter cup was mingled by His Father: "This cup which You give Me to drink, shall I not drink it?" Oh, if He could extract comfort in this hour of inconceivable agony, in the thought that a Father's hand lighted the fearful furnace-fires — what strong consolation is there is the same truth to all His suffering people!
What! one superfluous drop! one unessential pang! one unneeded cross! Hush the secret atheism! He gave His Son for you! He calls Himself "your Father!" Whatever be the trial under which you are now smarting, let the word of a gracious Savior be "like oil thrown on the fretful sea;" let it dry every rebellious tear-drop. "He, your unerring Parent, knows that you have need of this as well as all these things."
THE GRACIOUS INVITATION
"Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said,"
"Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." — Matthew 11:28
Gracious "word" of a gracious Savior, on which the soul may confidingly repose, and be at peace forever! It is a present rest — the rest of grace as well as the rest of glory. Not only are there signals of peace hung out from the walls of Heaven — the lights of Home glimmering in the distance to cheer our footsteps; but we have the "shadow" of this "great Rock!" in a present "weary land." Before the Throne above is there "the sea of glass," without one rippling wave; but there is a haven even on earth for the tempest-tossed, "We who have believed DO enter into rest."
Reader, have you found this blessed repose in the blood and work of Immanuel? Long going about "seeking rest and finding none," does this "word" sound like music in your ears — "Come unto Me"? All other peace is counterfeit, shadowy, unreal. The eagle spurns the gilded cage as a poor exchange for his free-born soarings. The soul's immortal aspirations cannot be satisfied, short of the possession of God's favor and love in Jesus.
How complete is the invitation! If there had been one condition in entering this covenant Ark, we must have been through eternity at the mercy of the storm! But all are alike warranted and welcome, and none more warranted than welcome. For the weak, the weary, the sin-burdened and sorrow-burdened, there is an open door of grace.
Return, then, unto your rest, O my soul! Let the sweet cadence of this "word of Jesus" move quietly upon you amid the disquietudes of earth. Sheltered in Him, you are safe for time — safe for eternity! There may be, and will be, temporary tossings, fears, and misgivings; manifestations of inward corruption; but these will only be like the surface-heavings of the ocean, while underneath there is a deep, settled calm. "You will keep him in perfect peace" (lit. peace, peace) "whose mind is stayed on You." In the world — it is care on care, trouble on trouble, sin on sin — but every wave that breaks on the believer's soul seems sweetly to murmur, "Peace, peace!"
And if the foretaste of this rest is precious, what must be the glorious consummation? Awaking in the morning of immortality, with the unquiet dream of earth over — faith lost in sight, and hope in fruition — no more any bias to sin — no more latent principles of evil — nothing to disturb the spirit's deep, everlasting tranquility — the trembling magnet of the heart reposing, where alone it can confidingly and permanently rest — in the enjoyment of the Infinite God. "These things have I spoken unto you, that in Me you might have peace."
A DIVINE CHALLENGE
"How precious are Your thoughts unto me, O God!"
"This is what the Lord says: 'If you can break My covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time — then my covenant with David my servant — and my covenant with the Levites who are priests ministering before me — can be broken, and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne." — Jeremiah 33:20-21
It is remarkable how often God's revealed thoughts have for their theme, the immutability of His covenant; as if the contemplation of His own inviolable faithfulness formed the mightiest of all topics of comfort and consolation for His believing people. Here He makes a solemn appeal to the constancy of the natural world — as a pledge and guarantee of His unchanging fidelity in spiritual things. Nothing seems so undeviating as the succession of day and night — the revolution of the seasons. The sun sinking at eventide in the golden west, and rising again like a giant refreshed. "While the earth remains," said the Great Creator over His own world, as it emerged of old from the waters of the Deluge, "seed-time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease."
In our motto-verse, using human language as a vehicle of Divine thought, He makes the challenge, 'If you can forbid that sun to rise — if you can put drags on his burning chariot wheels, and prevent him from setting — if you can forbid the moon to hang her silver lamp from the vault of night, or pluck the stars from their silent thrones — if you can transpose summer's heat and winter's cold — if you can make seed-time belie its promise to expecting autumn — then — but not until then, shall I break My covenant with My chosen servants!'
"Just as the heavens cannot be measured and the foundation of the earth cannot be explored, so I will not consider casting them away forever for their sins. I, the Lord, have spoken!"
It is delightful thus to look around us on the steadfast and unvarying sequences in the material universe, and to regard them as sacraments of grace — silent witnesses for the inviolability of God's word and promise. Nature, in her majestic constancy, becomes a temple filled with monuments, each bearing the inscription, "God who cannot lie!" The God of nature and the God of grace are one — and He who for the last six thousand years has given such proof of unswerving faithfulness in the one economy — (for "they continue this day according to Your ordinances") — will be equally faithful in fulfilling the more permanent provisions of the other. "Look up to the skies above, and gaze down on the earth beneath. For the skies will disappear like smoke, and the earth will wear out like a piece of clothing. The people of the earth will die like flies — but My salvation lasts forever. My righteous rule will never end!"
It is an "everlasting covenant, well-ordered in all things, and sure." How can it be otherwise, seeing it is founded on the work and righteousness of Jehovah-Jesus, Immanuel — God with us! Before one provision of that covenant can fail, immutability must first become mutable — and God Himself cease to be God! Standing on this "sure foundation," we can boldly utter the challenge, "Who is he that condemns?" Not God the Father — for "He has justified." Not Christ — for "He has died." Not angels in the heights above, not devils in the depths beneath.
Universal nature, in the ceaseless hymn of her own constancy, proclaims and celebrates our covenant security and safety. Her four great evangelists, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter — endorse the utterances of the inspired volume. In the mouth of the two witnesses, "Day and Night," every word is established. Thus, with reference not only to the glory and wisdom and power of God — but to His purpose and promise of salvation for His people, "Day unto day utters speech; and night unto night shows knowledge." "But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations!"
John MacDuff (1818-1895)