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!"
"How precious are Your thoughts unto me, O God!"
"I have loved you with an everlasting love! Therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you!" — Jeremiah 31:3
Here we have an everlasting thought of God, "in the beginning, before ever the earth was." Believer, travel back in imagination to the ages of the past. Before the trance of eternity was broken by any visible manifestation of power — before one temple was erected in space, before one angel waved his wing, or one note was heard of seraph's song — when God inhabited alone, these sublime solitudes — then there was a thought of you — and that thought was — Love!
Think of the sovereignty of that love. He says not, 'You have loved Me with your poor earthly love — therefore have I drawn you.' No, no! It is from nothing in you — no foreseen goodness on your part. Grace is the reason for all He has done, "God who is rich in mercy for His great love with which He loved us." "I will have mercy," is His own declaration — on whom I will have mercy!" "Jacob," (that cunning, scheming, crafty youth) "Jacob I loved — but Esau I hated!"
Manasseh, (that miserable man who has defiled his crown, dishonored his throne, and deluged Jerusalem with blood) "I have loved." That dying thief — fresh from a life of infamy, breathing out his blasphemies on a felon's cross, "I have loved." And why, let each of us ask, am I not a Cain or a Judas? Why am I not a wrecked and stranded vessel, like thousands before me? Here is the reason; "Yes, I have loved you." Before you had one thought of Me, yes, when your thoughts were those of hatred, rebellion, and enmity — My thoughts towards you were thoughts of love!
And that Sovereign love, as it is from everlasting, so is it to everlasting — endless in duration — enduring as eternity. The love of the creature is but of yesterday — it may be gone tomorrow — dried like a summer-brook when most needed. But the love of God is fed from the glacier summits — the everlasting hills. We may estimate its intensity, when the Savior could utter regarding it such a prayer as this, "That the love with which You have loved Me — may be in them."
Oh, amid the often misgivings of my own doubting heart, with its frames and feelings as vacillating as the shifting sand, let me delight to ponder this precious thought — the long line of unbroken love — every link love — connecting the eternity that is past with the eternity to come — God thinking of me before the birth of time — even then mapping out all my future happiness and heavenly bliss — and standing now, with the hoarded love of that eternity in His heart, seeking therewith to "draw" me!
It is "the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us through Christ Jesus" — which is the moral gravitation-power of the cross, by which His true people have ever been drawn. "I, if I be lifted up from the earth — will draw all men unto Myself!" Draw me, Lord — and I will run after You. Show me Your loving-kindness thus enshrined and manifested in Your dear Son. Constrain me to love You in Him, because You have first loved, and so loved, me! "How priceless is Your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of Your wings."
"How precious are Your thoughts unto me, O God!"
"For this is what the high and lofty One says — He who lives forever, whose name is holy: I live in a high and holy place — but also with him who is contrite and humble in spirit; to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite." — Isaiah 57:15
This verse may with reverence be termed, God's own description of His two dwelling-places. How amazing the contrast and disparity; inhabiting eternity, AND — the human bosom! The great of the earth associate with the great — kings have their abodes in palaces. One of God's palaces — is the lowly heart. Inconceivable is the distance of those stars whose light takes millions of years in traveling to our earth; and yet what is this? A mere span, compared to the distance which separates the creature from the Creator. We are "but of yesterday." Our days are as an handbreadth, "as a dream when one awakens!"
Eternity is the lifetime — the biography of the Almighty — ages and eras are the pages of the vast volume! If our distance from Him be great as creatures — it is greater still as sinners! Yet this high and lofty One, dwelling in the high and holy place, and whose name is Holy, condescends to be the inmate of the humble, contrite spirit, and to listen to its penitent sighs. Oh, unutterable, unimaginable stoop! The sovereign earthly king visiting the abode of poverty — is earth's illustrative picture and symbol of condescension. Yet what, after all, is this — but one perishable mortal, visiting another perishable mortal.
But here is Omnipotence — dwelling with weakness;
Majesty — dwelling with nothingness;
the Infinite — dwelling with the finite;
Deity — dwelling with dust!
How this "precious thought" ennobles, elevates, consecrates the human soul. That home of earth is ever afterwards rendered illustrious, where royalty has sojourned. "If any man loves Me," says Jesus, "he will keep My words, and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him and make Our abode with him."
What, O Lord, is man, that You are thus mindful of him — that You visit him? Prepare my heart for Your reception. Rend Your heavens and come down — fill its temple-courts with Your glory. May all its powers — sprinkled, like the sacred vessels of old, with the consecrating blood — be dedicated to Your service. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit — a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise." Destroy every pedestal of pride. Make me humble — keep me humble. What have I to be proud of? Nothing. I am dependent continually on Your bounty. My existence — my health — my strength — my reason — are aloan from You the Great Proprietor, who can, in the twinkling of an eye, paralyze strength, dethrone reason, arrest the pulses of joyous life, and write upon all I have, "Ichabod, the glory has departed!"
Much more is this the case in spiritual things — I am a pensioner from hour to hour on redeeming grace and love! But for Jesus — I would be lost forever! It is lying low at the foot of His cross that I can learn how the Greatest of all Beings can be the most condescending of all. "I cease to wonder at anything," said a believer, "after the discovery of God's love to me in Christ!" "Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?"
John MacDuff (1818-1895)