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the third member of the triplet series, Chs. 12-14
Boisterous Evil, Frustrated Saints
and the Way On with the Redeemer
THE REALISATION OF THE REMEDY
REMEDY FOR EXASPERATION IN THE HARASSED SAINT
"Will the Lord cast off forever ?
And will He be favourable no more ?
Has His mercy ceased forever
Has His promise failed forevermore ?
"Has God forgotten to be gracious ?
Has He in His anger shut up His tender mercies"
Such are the questions of the harassed saint ?
Trouble was about him, and he sought the Lord. Trouble had found its day, like a holiday,
but this was a holiday from content, a rest from repose, while consternation set in like a cloud covering the sun, and the mist of confusion thrust its way to make sight difficult, progress faint.
"My soul refused to be comforted!" he continues in Psalm 77.
He thought of God, and trouble came to him. Difficulty was in the very surface of his way, and contentment seemed gone forever. Sleep in anguish was an option, but concern flickered upon his thoughts, deeply moved. Troubled, he felt dumb; seeking, he felt in vain.
Then came that confused outpouring with which this
Chapter started, including the almost pert-sounding resonance to his
restlessness, "Has God forgotten to be gracious!"
Perhaps, the ludicrous thought came, God's mercy has clean gone forever... He seemed to chew it like a sour cherry, before spitting it out.
In some moment of concentration elsewhere, the springs of joy have gone, the pellucid waters where one can see and be delighted with the thoroughfare of life, have become clouded. Is favour in friendship with the Divine no longer to be his medium, as if a wireless had ceased to function, or a telephone line went dead ? but this was not just communication, it was the softness and tenderness, the clarity and kindness that is better than life, which is the wise way of the Lord, more characteristic than the voice of a friend. Where was it ? Like someone in a forest, drifting a little apart, and then finding no sign of the company, he began to become alarmed.
What then of His promises, those premises of His faithfulness ? So the saint continues his rather wild or reckless seeming talk, though it is the child of frustration tinged with consternation, the distancing of an expectation which is rapidly becoming less than patient. So vital is the cord to the Lord, that this current little failure seems forever; so major is His grace that this hiatus seems insufferable! His musings become like the chatter of teeth in trembling, but have something of the chatter of the machine gun in a frenzy of thrust. WHY!
However, "this is my anguish!" he declares. In other words, it is not God but his own heart which is wanting. Sensitive and spiritual, he feels momentarily as if the very spiritual ground were invisible and mist was the constitution of his earth, so that all that is solid is dispersing ...
Thus he realised it was time to reflect on the work of God, His miracles, personal and national, His power and character, and to remember the formalised realities of sacrificial cover and divine dealings on a secure basis. The temple was a comfort for there the work of the living God was exhibited in precise form, in accord with the divine instructions, symbolising mercy, peace, pardon and a guaranteed approach to God, the God of his life.
After all, he reflects, "You are the God who does wonders," and in the most public and secure way He has so acted that "You have declared your strength among the peoples," delivering, redeeming, giving a sound and secure spiritual basis to faith, and an objective testimony to the mind. He reflects back in the initial days of divine deliverance from the slavery of Egypt in multiplied miracles, so that "the earth trembled and shook," and as to that divine action, IT WORKED. They did escape, defenceless though they were in any human estimation, against the mightiest nation on earth. Yes, the Lord acted and it worked. They went safe through the sea, out of the land; and best of all, He led.
That crossing of the sea, how wonderful! God is not bound by what He has bound for man; and His power, His goings, His public, demonstrable exhibition of power when He ridiculed the Egyptian gods, these were beyond the sight of man. Yet, he meditates, the results were visible enough in glorious effectual sequence. In this, in that great, slave-making land, that Empire, God was making the very things that symbolised Egyptian gods to become the material used in curses on the slave-drivers, each announced, each removed at the request for mercy from the Pharaoh. God mocked their gods, led His people and they escaped.
Such is the site of the theme of the Psalmist.
Yes, at the sea, how glorious the movement of the
waters out for their crossing, and back for the drowning of Pharaoh's pursuing
armies. Small wonder the Psalmist was so overwhelmed by these things, in
reflective memory of the days, as recorded and known like the alphabet, a
spiritual alphabet, by his race. His heart is stirred by the invisible strength
of the delivering God:
"Your path in the sea.
Your path in the great waters,
And your footsteps were not known."
Actually the word 'was' may be added after 'path', and poetically it may be omitted; but it is not written. It could be considered as open, since it is only by implication that one puts anything in that space, and could as well read “Your path is in the sea.”
Either way, the Lord is able so to act, beyond the thoughts of man, being unlimited by His own creation. The thing is put in the most practical of terms when Christ in fact DID walk on the water (as in Matthew 14:22ff.). Such barriers, being of His own disposition, do not harry Him, or harass. On the contrary, as need arises, He can produce force or counter-force at will. As the Messiah, He did not use it for making life easy, but for making His commission the clearer: hence He did NOT turn stones into bread in the temptation (as in Matthew 4)!
When He DOES elect, in general to act, it is very open to Him. Similarly, even I in the office of editor, can change any letter in any word without the slightest difficulty; and for me, this is merely stepping up one domain, from the thing which I printed, to making it different with the same power. With God, there is NO limit in the first or second place, to this mode or with that. This is one reason why it is so fascinating when He elects to deliver one of His servants by dramatic means: it is intriguing to see how He does it, better far than seeing some champion sportsman astound the critics.
Thus the way of the Lord IS SUCH. His way is in the sea.
Indeed, whatever the medium, He is able to transcend or amend, to direct or to intervene. No problem: it is as simple as for any author to correct a book. He made it and it is His; all laws are His: and He does not even have to remake any, or to annul any for a moment. He simply acts, as anyone may act when competent in a given medium, to insert force to make things happen which normally do not have reason so to do. Miracles are manifold in character, but such a type is simplicity itself for the One with the power of the creation and the profound wisdom found in it, in His mind and in His survey.
Personal, yet not material, the God who gave form to matter and force to its construction in the universe, geometry to space and solace to man in the intensity of His works, as the farm of life and the oceans for travel and commerce were formed, the conditions made ready for the instant introduction of man: it is He who gave a way to Israel, when no way was there, providing deliverance when impossibility laughed all hope to scorn. He moved something tangible, overseeing with a power not made with hands; He performed a work for the product of His authority, the sea, and sent to His people thereby a road for it to travel, making a joint action, in sequence providing rescue that they MIGHT travel it, and that others might NOT, as the waters swirled back in perfect timing to arrest and even to drown the lordly pursuers.
How foolish then for anyone belonging to God, for any Christian who knows the living God, to be frustrated! It is trust in Him which is needed, even when the visible seems to recede and a horror of being alone comes, as if to show to faith that it is to be exercised (even a healthy dog is exercised!), not to become the spiritual equivalent of wet wadding! It is indeed as in Isaiah 50, a message that comes strongly, and this melds with that text very well.
: "Who among you fears the LORD ?
"Who obeys the voice of His Servant ?"
(that is Christ, the Messiah, in Isaiah 49-55 pre-figured in many prophecies*1)
"Who walks in darkness
And has no light ?
Let him trust in the name of the LORD
And rely upon his God."
There is a time for dead reckoning, when the customary comfort of Christ's overwhelming grace and glorious kindness may fade like the light of the sun, when one moves under a big hill when driving, or the strength of a broadcast when one passes through some deep ravine. At such times, though one's spirit may feel consternation because the signal is not so strong, yet it is not the signal of comfort, for He has indeed not left us orphans (John 14:18), but come to us by His Spirit (as at first occurring by promise, promised in Luke 24:49, and later confirmed in the divine birth travail of the Lord for His Church, at Pentecost).
His Spirit abides in the heart of the saint (Romans 8:9). It is in one sense like someone with a number which identifies his telephone, mobile and ready, and using this, one finds the connections needed. Here it is the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in His GIFT of eternal life through pardon, purging and regeneration, by faith, that is provided; and for those who have found Him (cf.John 5:39-40) by faith, and so being regenerated, have become HIS children, it works.
It is not however the telephone that one trusts, pro forma, but the power of the God who has made the spiritual highway for communication, for communing, and given the word by which it is all set up, and will last in any conditions. His communion and communication may be varied in nature from comfort, to direction, to constraint; and it may be moving to rebuke or release, inspiring rejoicing or developing tests, as He will. HE is the one, and the nature of His current modes and desires, like those of a trainer are episodes; but HIS is the book in which they are written, and though heaven and earth pass, His words will not pass. When God speaks, power presides, according to what He has to say.
Hence, when suffering, perhaps BECAUSE of persecutions and odious shame from a sick society, of invented dishonour and the laughter of those who are fat with folly and light in heart through their wealth and inequity, as in Psalm 119, the power of God still presides, His reasons are still adequate and the point is to turn it to His glory, not to be subdued. Even if the solace of spiritual strength for a moment seems to be growing distant, yet faith is here to the fore. It is work for it, blessed labour, to shun doubt like disease and to reach with invisible resolve to the always available God of creation, trusting that He knows PRECISELY what He is doing. Yes one then dares to rejoice, even though there is a trial, primed with His purpose, and trusting in His wisdom.
It is just as in Habakkuk, where the saint is exercised by the fumbling, bumbling of mankind, spiritually in general distressingly blind, binding and hunting when the mood takes, acting to hunt and to trap even among men, as if wholly unaware of the purpose, the point and the glory of life in the God of creation. His curse on the earth is not the token for being worthy of more, but the warning to seek salvation. Man and nation alike, seem obsessed with folly, deadened by blindness, short-circuited like a device of great wonder, which yet does not work. In the midst of such evils, the man of God has no need to complain or be disquieted. This is the test room, the character sculpting, the testimony production unit, the faith trial, the incentive situation to set one busy in seeking the Lord and His word, will and way, rejoicing in the wonder of His skill (as in Psalm 78:72).
What says the prophet Habakkuk, if there be a cessation of the outward character of blessing, this is mere formatting. The kernel remains.
"Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labour of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls -
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will joy in the God of my salvation."
The boisterous evils may thunder, the catastrophic follies of man may augment, the whole earth may ignite, and the mountains even be moved into the midst of the sea (as in Psalm 46),
yet the one knowing God has this to respond:
"God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
"Therefore we will not fear
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea,
Though the waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling."
After all ...
"There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the most High.
God is in the midst of here, she shall not be moved.
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
"The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
Psalm 46 proceeds after this eschatological survey, to consider the peace which ONLY God can bring to this earth, and this in His own way and time, which He WILL bring it.
Knowing God, His plans, and having seen what He has done, we who are Christians in this 21st century have inimitable blessing in the whole unrolling of the parchment of His actions from Moses to Jesus Christ, from Pentecost to the present predicted plight of this world, in profound detail fulfilling the divine prognosis of the Son of God. Let the earth be removed (though Christ will return first as in Acts 1:7): yet one does not fear. The child of God is no orphan. The heart knows what the head insists upon; and God, He is to be trusted, now as always.
Frustration ? bombast and blight ? Let it come. In God, is our Rock, and in Him is there no overthrow, let come what will. This is no bravado; God is like that.
In HIM, and not in oneself, one's circumstances, psychological or spiritual, in Him does one trust. The trust is trained, based, founded, secured, and the Lord in whom it is placed is far fuller of energy than the universe which He has made, even granted the prodigy of energy which it enshrines, as seen by the equation E=MC2.
In God is content, even when the spirit is heavy; in God is happiness, even when sorrows impel. He has it all under control, and if faith is tested, fine, let it grow strong. HE is the God of one's heart, and in Him there are no extremities, for all is governed by His grace; and even if crucified, the child of God is yet still serving Him: for this life is for a time, but He is for ever. His will is found by intimate and constant communion and through His ever present word and vitalising Spirit. His way is sure, and His love comes whether suns rise or set, whether the sunset be glorious or the dawn a delight, or tempest strives with the earth, while men rant.
HE, He does not change; and what could be better than that: for He is incomparably just and true, divinely and gloriously reliable, and the vicissitudes of the moment are but the strengthening of the arm, the stirring of the heart and the occasion of seeking Him with relish even more. How near is He, closer than hands and feet, but how wise! What a privilege to serve Him in the vitality of life, in the midst of whatever tests! To pass a test, this is to glorify Him: what therefore a privilege to be permitted to be so tested. Thus did the apostles rejoice at being found worthy to glorify Him by the shame imposed by the godless religionists who beat them, while those very powers were being beaten in the grand strategy of things, even by those apostles whom they dared to assault! (Acts 5:41).
See With Heart and Soul, Mind and Strength Chs. 4, 5, 6, 7.