Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew [it] not.
Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am
I in the midst of them.–Lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto
the end of the world.–My presence shall go [with thee], and I
will give thee rest.
Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee
from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou [art] there:
if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou [art there].–[Am] I a
God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off? Can any
hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith
the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.
Behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee;
how much less this house that I have builded?–Thus saith the
high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name [is]
Holy; I dwell in the high and holy [place], with him also [that
is] of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the
humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.–Ye are
the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in
them, and walk in [them]; and I will be their God, and they
shall be my people.
Ge 28:16 Mt 18:20 28:20 Ex 33:14 Ps 139:7,8 Jer 23:23,24
1Ki 8:27 Isa 57:15 2Co 6:16
“He found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.”– Heb_12:17.
“O Jerusalem …. how often would I have gathered thy children together …. and ye would not!”– Mat_23:37.
THE GREEKS represented Opportunity as bald, with no lock of hair by which she could be laid hold of as she turned away and fled. Every one has opportunity, but there is often no symptom of its approach, no sign of its departure; when once it is missed, it rarely comes again! It is said that Queen Victoria once gave a comparatively unknown painter the opportunity of a private sitting. She came at the exact time that was arranged, but he was five minutes late, and he lost his opportunity!
Esau bartered his birthright! What cared he for the spiritual prerogative of the first-born to act as the priest of the clan, and to stand in the possible lineal descent of the Messiah. He craved what would satisfy and please his senses. But when he had sold his birthright, he was held to the transaction. “He found no place of repentance” does not mean that he wished to and could not, but that the die was cast, the decision was deemed final. It is within the range of every one to do an act, to make a choice, to barter away the spiritual for the material so absolutely, that the decision is held irrevocable. Let us take care lest we be betrayed by passion into an act which may affect our entire destiny.
The outstretched wing of God’s love would have sheltered Jerusalem from its impending fate, but she refused Him in His servants and His Son, and her day of opportunity passed!
Even so, salvation waits for us all, and there is hope and opportunity for us to repent as long as the day of grace is not closed, but let us not forget, as McCheyne said, that Christ gives last knocks. The present is your time of hope, of a fresh beginning, of a new opportunity. Open the door of your life to Christ and make Him King. He offers you your chance, rise to it; do your very best, find your niche of service in His Kingdom, and set yourself to follow Him with all your heart, and mind, and strength.
O Lord, let us not serve Thee with the spirit of bondage as slaves, but with the cheerfulness and gladness of children, delighting ourselves in Thee and rejoicing in Thy work. AMEN.
“If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift, go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”– Mat_5:23-24.
THERE IS a marked difference between memory and recollection.
Memory resembles a great box or chest into which a man casts his letters, accounts, and manuscripts; recollection is the readiness, be it less or more, with which he can lay his hand on what he requires. We know that it is somewhere in our possession, we remember to have seen and turned it over, but search as we may we cannot find or recall it.
But there is a moment of quickened recollection when we stand before God: “When thou bringest thy gift to the altar and rememberest.” As the Divine searchlight plays upon our past life it reveals many things which had passed from our mind. Conscience is a keen quickener of our powers of recollection.
What has your brother against you? This–that you flamed out against him in passion, with bitter, angry words, in hatred and contempt; or this–that you have been sullen and sulky, scarcely answering his advances, meeting his salutations with grudging courtesy. Perhaps you have done him a positive wrong, and have taken from him his only covering, or have forborne to help him when he stood in sore need (Exo_22:26-27; Exo_23:4-9).
We are bidden to get right with man, as the first step to acceptance with God–” first be reconciled to thy brother.” Humility is necessary in every approach to God, and nothing so humbles our pride as to confess our faults to our brethren. Truth is necessary to all right dealings with God, and nothing will so promote truth in our inward parts as to be transparent and simple in our dealings with our fellows. Sincerity in confession of sin is an essential beginning of peace with God, but how can we be sure that our confession is sincere unless it costs us something more than words. “‘First, be reconciled with thy brother”–not only with the brother of human flesh–but with our great Brother in the Glory (Gen_1:17-21; Heb_2:11). Then come offer thyself, as thy gift; He will accept thee, and thy gifts.
Give unto us, O Lord, we beseech Thee, broken and contrite hearts. Help us to do all that ought to be done to make amends, and grant unto our brother the willingness to meet us with forgiveness and peace. So shall we have peace with Thee, our Elder Brother, against whom we have grievously sinned. AMEN.
GLORIFYING GOD IN OUR RECREATIONS
“All things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”– 1Co_10:23-31.
THE WORD Recreation is preferable to Pastime, for as one realizes the priceless moments, with all their opportunities, getting fewer, one is averse to hear people talk of “killing time.” But “recreation” is a good word, and we all need to find some way of re-creating the exhausted grey-matter of the brain which is being used up in long application to study or work.
We must not be the “dull boys” of the old adage, but as Christians our faces should shine like the morning sun; we should be quick, bright, intelligent, and in no danger of being reckoned among the “back-numbers,” of which the piles are generally shabby and dusty!
“All things edify not” is one of the first conditions of healthy recreation. There is really no limit but this to the recreations in which a Christian person can indulge. He may play at manly games, row, skate, swim, drive a motor, sail the ocean, or scale the mountain snows! The more the better, so long as they are recreative; and are not the end, but the means to the end of a healthy manhood and womanhood. That is, they must edify, build up physique, muscle, brain, to be used afterwards in the main business of life. Nothing is a greater curse than when people neglect their real business in order to get to their sports and games. Then, so far from edifying, these in turn begin to pull down and destroy.
Probably the words “edify not” put in a plea on the behalf of others. We are not to do things which in themselves may be lawful and innocent enough, but which might have a prejudicial effect on those who are watching every movement of our life.
“Do all to the glory of God.” So many seem afraid of joy! They fear if they are too happy, God will send some trouble as make weight. How different is the command in Deu_26:11 and Phi_4:4. Even when things do not appear to be good, let us dare to be thankful in all things, and give praise for all. All our Father’s gifts are good, whatever be the wrappings or packing-cases in which they come to hand.
May the Holy Spirit so fill us with Christ our Lord, that there may be no room in our life for anything inconsistent with His perfect purity and love. AMEN.
MINISTERING TO CHRIST
“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.”– Mat_25:40.
IS IT not wonderful that our Lord should identify Himself thus with the hungry and thirsty, the weary and homeless, the outcast and suffering? If any who read these words should be in one of these conditions, be greatly comforted, for Jesus suffered thus in His earthly career, and remembers what it is like. His sympathy and understanding are warm and inexhaustible, and He accepts any kindness as though it were done directly to Himself.
We must be on the outlook for those whom we can help, remembering that the outstretched hand or petition is His. But we must beware, on the other hand, and endeavour to help people wisely. In giving to every beggar that asks alms we may inflict injury on the moral nature by encouraging them to be lazy and careless. We are not to distribute money, food, and clothing alone, but to give personal ministry which may cost us more!
Christ speaks of those who give hand-help to others as righteous, because it is only as we are really right with God that we are merciful to men. Righteousness and mercifulness are one.
The sin of omission! Notice that those who were banished and exiled from the presence of the King were judged because of what they did not do. We may be condemned not simply for actual sins committed, but for what we neglect to do. Not to bind up and care for the wounded or ill-treated, but to pass by on the other side; not to have the oil ready for the lamp; not to make use of the talent or gift entrusted, this involves condemnation, and degrades the soul to the level of the devil and his angels.
Let us ask for the grace of the Holy Spirit, that we may follow in the steps of our Lord Jesus, who went about doing good, and healing all who were sick and in need. He has made over the great debt we owe to Him to the poor and needy, and says that whatever we do to others for His sake, He will accept as payment to Himself.
O God, we have been too self-centred. We have forgotten that our best and happiest life must be lived in fellowship with the needs, and sorrows, and trials of others. Help us to cheer them with our love, to hearten them with our courage, and to bear their burdens so far as we may. AMEN.
FROM DISCIPLE TO APOSTLE
“And when it was day, He called unto Him His disciples: and of them He chose twelve, whom also He named apostles.”— Luk_6:13.
AT THE basis of all things there is a Divine order. We hear it in the noblest music, we find traces of it in the highest art; we are in contact with it in our purest and simplest meditations. Our souls bear witness to its beauty and truth whenever it confronts us. Our Lord Jesus bears a true witness to this in His beatitudes, and the enunciation of other principles, which appeal to our conscience as right and good. As we travel in His company along the road, we find He explains mysteries and enigmas in a fashion which appeals to our heart; we know that He speaks true. Finally, we come to a point where He passes beyond the road of our knowledge to the upper reaches of the mountains which we have not trodden before. He speaks to us of the nature of God, He assures us of the forgiveness of sin, He draws aside the veil from the unseen and the eternal. He lifts us into a new and blessed vision of the working together of all things according to the eternal purpose. And we who trusted Him where our own conscience substantiated His statements, are able to trust God, and follow Him when He deals with questions which eye hath not seen, nor the heart of man conceived. Thus we become His disciples, or pupils in His School.
Out of the disciples, our Lord chose some to be Apostles. We begin by learning, and after a while, we are sent forth to teach. During the first years we serve our apprenticeship, and afterwards we are permitted to be master hands. The disciple becomes an Apostle, and the Apostle is chosen not for his own comfort and enjoyment, but that he may be the instrument through which Christ achieves His eternal purpose. Election is not primarily to salvation, but to service. We are not elect that we may be sheltered from destruction, but that we may go forth to serve men, to teach them the law and love of God, and to help bring the world into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
Most Blessed Lord, we thank Thee that we may become Thy disciples. Give us teachable hearts and listening ears; may we sit at Thy feet and be moulded according to Thy mind. Oh, choose us, and send us forth, and trust us with Thy sacred ministry, fulfilling in us the good pleasure of Thy will. AMEN.
“We make it our aim (we are ambitious) to be well-pleasing unto Him.”– 2Co_5:9 (R.V., see marg.).
THERE IS scope for ambition within the sphere of the Christian Faith, and to be without it is to miss an influential incentive to high and holy endeavour. Our Lord does not destroy any natural faculty, but directs it to a worthy object. Instead of living for material good, or the applause of the world, we must stir ourselves to seek those things which are the legitimate objects of holy ambition. In two other passages the Apostle Paul uses this same word. See 1Th_4:11; Rom_15:20 (R.V. marg.).
There is the ambition of daily toil,–”Be ambitious to be quiet, to do your own business, to work with your own hands.” In the age in which the Apostles lived there was much unrest, and in the case of the Christian Church this was still further increased by the expectation of the approaching end of the world; many were inclined to surrender their ordinary occupations, and give themselves up to restlessness and excitement, all of which was prejudicial to the regular ordering of their homes and individual lives, But the injunction is that we are not to yield to the ferment of restlessness; we are not to be disturbed by the feverishness around us, whether of social upheavals or for pleasure or gain.
The ambition to be well-pleasing to Christ. At His judgment-seat He will weigh up the worth of our individual mortal life, and He is doing so day by day. Not only when we pass the threshold of death, but on this side, our Lord is judging our character and adjudicating our reward. Let us strive to be as well-pleasing to Him in this life, as we hope to be in the next.
The ambition of Christian work–”Being ambitious to preach the Gospel.” The great world lies open to us, many parts of it still unevangelized; and all around us in our own country are thousands, among the rich and poor, who have no knowledge of Christ. Let us make it our ambition to bring them to Him, always remembering that the things we do for Christ must be that which He works through us in the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom_15:18-19).
Give us grace, O Lord, to work while it is day, fulfilling diligently and patiently whatever duty Thou appointest us; doing small things in the day of small things, and great labours if Thou summon us to any; rising and working, sitting still and suffering, according to Thy word. AMEN.
ENTERING THE KING’S SERVICE
“Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear. Forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house; So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: For He is thy Lord; and worship thou Him.”– Psa_45:10-11.
IT IS difficult to decide the occasion of this Psalm, which was written to celebrate a royal marriage. But there is much which goes far beyond the immediate circumstances out of which it sprang. We recognize its prophetic character, as well as its historic basis, and that it points onward to Christ the King. It is so quoted in Heb_1:8-9, and we may therefore certainly appropriate the Psalm as directly addressed to our Lord, who is our rightful King.
Christ’s claim rests on these grounds: The Righteousness of His Rule. His sceptre is not a rod of iron, but of “uprightness.” Our King loves righteousness and hates wickedness. Therefore His throne stands firm, and He claims the allegiance of all pure and upright souls. Would that all rulers and leaders realized that right makes might!
The Gladness of His Reign. The righteous heart is the joyful one; and our King teaches us that so far from holiness meaning gloom and depression, it is the root and fountain of true and abiding joy. Jesus was “the Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief,” but underneath was an abiding and eternal joy, like the spring flowers that nestle under the warm coverlet of snow. There is a blessed attractiveness in Christian joy and gladness, which is characteristic of our King, and should mark all His subjects.
The Love of His Heart. The bride is willing to forsake her own people and her father’s house, and if we take the Lord Jesus to be our King and Husband, we shall be willing to count all things but loss for love of Him. Therefore He said, “Whosoever he be that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple.”
“‘He is thy Lord.” We are reminded that however tender may be the sense of Christ’s love to us, we must reverence Him as our King. Reverence is the best foundation for true affection. We shall never fully know His salvation until we recognize and own Him as King. “Thy King cometh unto thee, having salvation.” “He is exalted as Prince and Saviour.” Lift up your heads, O gates of Mansoul, and the King of Glory shall come in! (Rev_3:20).
In all things attune our hearts to the holiness and harmony of Thy Kingdom. Hasten the time when Thy Kingdom shall come, and Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. AMEN.
“For the love of Christ constraineth us….We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us.”– 2Co_5:14-20.
AN AMBASSADOR may live in a foreign country, but he does not belong to it. He is there to represent his own country, and no opportunity of helping forward her interests is allowed to pass. We have to represent Christ to the world. The word “constrain” suggests a constant pressure, an urge, as when water is forced down a certain channel. St. Paul says: “I act as I do because I am under the spell of a mighty constraint; I can do no other; I am not master of myself. Do not wonder at what may seem to be unusual and extravagant. Attribute my eccentricity to Christ–His love actuates me, and bears me along.”
What is meant by “the love of Christ?” Is it His to us, or ours to Him? It is impossible to divide them thus, for they are one. As the sunlight strikes the moon, and is reflected from her to the earth, so the love we have to Christ, or to man, is the reflection of His love to us. All love in our cold and loveless hearts is the emanation and reflection of the Love which began in Him, was mediated to us in Calvary, and is reflected from us, as sunlight from a mirror.
The love of Christ does not constrain all Christian people, because they do not understand the profound significance of the Cross; but when the soul once appreciates that, and passes through the gate of death into the life of God, then it begins to feel the constraining love of Christ. The pivot of our life must be the Risen Christ: “We no longer live unto ourselves, but unto Him who rose again.” We sometimes hear people described as eccentric—out of the centre. A man is ex-centric to the world when he is concentric with Christ. It is thus that we become a new creation. When by faith we are united to Jesus Christ in His Cross and Grave, the transition is made. We pass over into the Easter life. He has reconciled us unto Himself, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation–therefore we are ambassadors. We have to proclaim forgiveness to the sinful, the loosening of their chains to those who sit in prison-houses, and the near approach of salvation to all (Isa_52:7-10).
This empty cup for Thee to fill;
This trembling heart for Thee to still;
This yielded life to do Thy will,
O Lord of Love, I bring Thee. AMEN.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF CHRISTIAN CHARACTER
“Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”– Jam_1:27 (R.V.).
IT IS the experiences of life that reveal us to ourselves. They cannot put into us qualities that are not there, but can develop them. The whole of this wonderful chapter is filled with the diverse discipline of life. “Manifold trials” (Jam_1:2), which probably refer to the persecutions and losses of the early Christians., “Temptations” (Jam_1:12) which refer to the solicitation of evil from without and within. The burning heat of the fire of prosperity (Jam_1:11). The “good gifts” which are strewn around our pathway by the Father of lights–home, parents, friendship, love!
The greatest training-ground for us all is the Word of God (Jam_1:21-25). It is here compared to a mirror which reflects us to ourselves, but alas, too often we go our way and forget what manner of men we are. The human soul has a wonderful habit of forgetting any statements that seem to reflect on itself, and to contradict its own notions of its pride and respectability. If, however, we avoid this mistake, and set ourselves to doing, and not hearing only, then we shall grow into strong, brave, and beautiful souls, and shall be blessed in our deed.
Do not stand gazing at the imperfections which the Word of God reveals but having learnt where you come short, dare to believe that Jesus Christ is the true counterpart of your need; that He is strong where you are weak, and full where you are empty.
“Keep himself unspotted from the world.” We love the dimpled innocence and purity of a sweet child. But there is something nobler–the face of man or woman who has fought and suffered in the great battle against corruption that is in the world through lust. To keep oneself unspotted from the evil of the world, though perpetually accosted and surrounded by it, is a greater thing than to live in a glass-house, where the blight and dust cannot enter. What a training for character is this daily warfare!
To visit those in affliction. We are related to the world of pain and sorrow by the troubles which are constantly overtaking those with whom we come in contact in dally life. Where the conditions of life are hard, we obtain our best perfecting in Christian character.
Make our life deeper, stronger, richer, more Christlike, more full of the spirit of heaven, more devoted to Thy service and glory. AMEN.