The Right of the Creator
The chapter opens with the words "But now." They indicate some change in the tone of the narrative, or appeal, or judgment. A very notable change they indicate, quite a miracle of a transformation, possible only to the Almighty musician; none other could have ventured upon this metamorphosis. We have read "Therefore he hath poured upon him the fury of his anger, and the strength of battle: and it hath set him on fire round about, yet he knew not; and it burned him, yet he laid it not to heart" ( Isaiah 42:25). Then the forty-third chapter opens with the words "But now." It is as if winter died and summer were born on the same day. There is no interspace; we are out of the snow and amongst the flowers at a bound; we are away from the scorching fire into the very peace of God as if by one breath. There are many miracles which have not been indicated as such. We have been in the habit of expecting a miracle to create a space for itself, saying, with some flourish of trumpets, I am about to take place: make room for me, and keep your eyes open, and see what course I take, for I am unquestionably a wonder of God. But there are miracles that ask for no observance; they appeal by their quietness; they steal in upon us, and are completed before we quite knew they were about to begin. Moral miracles are greater than material wonders, signs, and tokens. Spiritual ministries abound in all the elements of noblest amazement, infinitely beyond the miracles that are done in wind and water and fire, and matter generally. But who so deaf as Israel? who so blind as Jacob? The prophetic faculty itself remains only in form and skeleton; all the indwelling power has gone: otherwise, how full of music would be our life, and how full of gratitude all the song of our being I then every morning would be a miracle, every dawn a triumph to God, every bud and every blossom a sign and pledge that the Almighty was amongst us, the Eternal Husbandman dressing the vineyard of earth. Let them say that the day of miracles has gone who have only had vulgar miracles to think about, miracles wrought in clay, stupendous wonders accomplished in insignificant mud. Eternal miracles follow the soul in all its outwinding and outgoing; they are the perpetual seal of the divine presence.
In reviewing Providence men do not go far enough back. The Lord himself always takes a great sweep of tune. Here is an instance in point—"But now thus saith the Lord that created thee... and he that formed thee." No argument is built upon what happened an hour ago. That itself is only part of the argument, and must be taken into view by those who would form a complete and just criticism of Providence. God always sets forth the whole case. It is thus the picture grows; it is by no one expenditure of paint, and no one exercise of the artistic hand, it is by a mystery of light and shade, that the whole miracle is completed. So God would have us go back to the beginning of things. This is the method of his Book: "In the beginning God created,"—there we drop our slate and pencil, our arithmetic, and our whole organon of reckoning, with its treacherous rules, treacherous because inadequate to the calculation of the infinite disc upon which things are evolved and completed. So here God takes the individual or the nation, the family or the constituency, of what scope soever, back to the day of creation. Is it an individual? the Lord does not say, Think what was done yesterday, and see how incidentally here and there I have been very kind to thee. He takes the individual back to the creation hour, to the first breath, to the first flash of the eye, the first consciousness of the being, and says, Reckon from that point: pick out nothing, either blessing or curse: read the writing, in all its complexity; mark how it grows, extends, contracts, enlarges, withdraws, assumes colour, and takes upon itself the mystery of suggestion, and throbs with the marvel of impulse, always beating in upward and heavenward directions. Man cannot learn this lesson easily; he has a short memory; he thinks of what occurred one week since; he seems to have lost the genius of accumulation; he supposes that the whole building is in one course of stones,—not knowing that it is intended to grow, until it becomes all points, shooting upward into the blue sky. Idiots are they in God"s sanctuary who talk only about the anecdotes of life,—philosophers they who grasp both the east and west, and have eyes to see the line which connects the points. Thus God will have us go back to creation day, to formation time, and take in all the childhood, all the youthhood, all the manhood, all the education and strife and discipline, all the attrition and all the harmony, all the weekdays and all the Sabbath-days; and he would bid us watch the mystery of time, until it comes out in blossoming and fruitfulness and benediction. We should have no pain if we had the right line of review and pursued it, and comprehended it, in its continuity and entirety. One day corrects another; one period of life redresses another; and thus we pass from judgment to judgment, and from grace to grace, and the whole must be looked back upon, until it shapes itself into a pavilion and sanctuary of God. Blessed are they who have eyes that can review the whole mystery and development of life. But there are many creations. Formation is not a single act. God is always creating life, and always forming it. There is an individual existence; there is a national organisation; there are birthdays of empires and birthdays of reform. In the instance given in this verse the creation was official rather than personal:—"But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel." "Jacob" and "Israel" are not the names of any particular individual, only solitary life: they are compendious designations; they point to periods of construction, formation, inspiration, when a man became a nation, when a wrestler became a prince, and when a prince was entitled to bear in official senses the very name and dignity of God. We are many men in one—the obscure citizen, the quiet resident, the unknown neighbour, the man who employs other men, the head of a family, the conductor of a great business, the leader charged with the inspiration which means sagacity, foresight and forethought, which encompasses all the ends of nations; and so the mystery of mankind expands and enlarges, and the Lord comes down to say that he did it all:—I formed the individual, I formed the official man—patriot, statesman, philosopher, poet, universal linguist, man in whose voice there is a tone for every one, in whose life there is a touch that makes other life new and young.
Thus the Church must recognise its period of creation and formation. Jacob was not always a people; Israel was not always a significant name, a symbol in language; and individuals are gathered together into societies, and they are charged with the administration of the kingdom of Christ, and as such they must go back and remember their Creator, and adore their Maker, and serve their Saviour, and renew their inspiration where it was originated. God thus comes down amongst us with the charter of creation in his hand, and would say in human words, I come to thee by right of creatorship; I have something to say to thee that will go into the very centre and core of thy being; as thy Creator I hold the key of the inmost recesses of thy nature, and as thy Former I have somewhat to whisper in thine innermost ear." Men come to us by certain rights: why should not God come by the same authority? There are some men to whom we would not speak otherwise than in the language of shallow courtesy, uttering words that are but wind; to other men we would deliver up the very soul, saying, Read it all, and tell us what to do when there is no help in us for ourselves. By what right do they come? By the right of sympathy; by the right of understanding; by the right of eternal kinship. That right is acknowledged; the possessors of it are hailed; at their approach the door flies open, and hospitality is written upon every corner of the roof. God thus produces his credentials, his certificate; he comes to us by right of having formed every bone in our body, and having breathed into our nostrils the breath of life, and having touched us with so much divinity as makes us men.
Right relations to God on the part of man should be realised. All presumption is saved by the open avowal of God himself, for in beginning the interview he says amongst his first words, "Thou art mine." He has a right to speak to his own. How did Israel or Jacob become God"s?—I have "created thee... formed thee... redeemed thee... called thee." That is claim enough. It is a growing claim. This appeal rises into climax, into convincing and triumphant words. I have "created thee;" that is the basal line: "formed thee;" given thee shape and relation: "redeemed thee;" paid for thee: "called thee by thy name;" like a friend or child: "thou art mine." Yet all this is in the Old Testament! Do we not fly from the Old Testament into the New that we may have some sight of the tenderness of God? There is no need for such flight. There are tenderer words about God in the Old Testament than there are in the New. Asked to cull flowers that are charged with the eloquence of pathos and sympathy and kindness, I should hasten to the Old Testament, for there the flowers grow thickly on the infinite field. The New Testament indeed has a touch in it which it could not have had but for the Old Testament. Even the Christ of the New Testament is only the fully formed and perfectly revealed Christ of the Old Testament; for he himself began at Moses. This is another confirmatory instance of the method of Providence—always beginning far back, and taking in the whole sweep and circuit of history in order to establish the most modern argument.
"Thou art mine; three little words, three little syllables; a child"s motto; words that might be printed by a little hand and sent as a message of love; words that might be engraved on a signet ring: yet words the whole meaning of which the firmament has not space enough to hold the entire development. God condenses his speech. His condensation is like his creation. His sentences are often like grains of mustard seed, very small in themselves or in their initial form, but having in them such power and faculty of expansion and enlargement as shall mean in the long run infinite harvesting. Do we realise our relation to God? Do we suppose we belong to ourselves? Are we foundlings in the universe? Is there any one who comes forth to claim us? Are there not children who wander about on heaths and parks and wide spaces, and at eventide do not know their way home; and are they not taken care of by the constabulary, and in the morning is there not someone who comes and says, That is mine: she is mine: he is mine? Sweet voice! voice with authority subdued into gentleness, and the more likely to be true because of its quietness. There is instant recognition between the two; no formal proof or affidavit is required; it is obvious to the eyes of observers that a true recognition has been established. It is even so with us. We are often lost. We adventure into open spaces and into boundless tracts, and when the shadows come we cannot tell just where we are. Blessed be God, if the night cometh, so doth the morning; and in the morning he says to us, "Thou art mine." We are claimed, and reclaimed, and taken home, and never chided because we foolishly lost ourselves in the night.
This relation carries everything else along with it After this, there can be nothing but detail:—
"When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee" ( Isaiah 43:2).
All that is something merely to be recognised, and hurried over, with a swiftness that barely recognises, and yet with a consciousness of grasp and triumph that means security. Could we not be spared passing through the waters? No. Might we not escape the rivers of God? Impossible. Could we not reach the further land where the summer breathes and flowers and sings without going through the valley of fire? No. He is a man without experience who has not often been drenched in deep floods, and often been exposed to the fury or furnaces heated seven times more than was wont. He who has come successfully through flood and furnace is a man who may be talked to with spiritual advantage; he is not a severe critic, he is not inspired with the genius of rebuke, but he is gifted, endowed, richly blessed, with the power of understanding other men, patiently waiting for them, and giving them assurance that after all their erratic wandering and eccentric action and motion, they will come to equipoise, they will realise the rest, the peace, the infinite tranquillity of God. It is easy to know a man who has often been drenched and often had struggles in the fire. He is a mysterious speaker. There is infinitely more in his speech than can be discovered at first from his words; yea, his words grow in meaning; the years bring their interpretation to his mystic and solemn expressions; then we suddenly say we remember now what he said, and how he said it; at the time there was mystery, and there is mystery still,—only at first there was a mystery of darkness, and now there is a mystery of light.
We must all pass through the water, and through the fire: how are we to pass? Alone? We may never come out. I beheld, and one like unto the Son of God was with them in the burning fiery furnace: when they came out the smell of fire had not passed upon them. The fire is a lion that knows God; he lays his hand upon its burning mane, and quiets the infinite cruelty, and turns it into a blessing. Have no fear of water and fire, for they stand as symbolical expressions for all manner of trials, because they are all under God"s control. No man can do you the slightest harm. Even critics cannot take the bread out of your mouth. Foolish are they who suppose that anybody can do them the slightest harm, except for the passing moment: and there shall come compensation and advantage that shall make the sufferer bless the critic for his unintentional kindness. "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above." As for thee, thou black devil, thou couldst not have touched me if thou hadst not asked God"s permission to try my quality. Thou canst not add one link to thy chain, thou diabolic being. Even thou, blackest of the black herd of night, art a creation and a serf of God.
Never stand up for your friend. That ought to be the policy and the inspiration of every Christian. There can be no humiliation to an honourable man so intolerable as to be told that somebody has been "standing up" for him. We must live in God. Righteousness is its own defence. Yet there are those who unintentionally inflict wounds where they meant to pay compliments: their silence would have been a eulogium; their defence is an insult. God will take care of his own, as all providence testifies. "Put up thy sword into the sheath:" little, impetuous, foolish nature, thou dost suppose that by drawing a sword thou art doing wonders; they are only wonders of folly: "Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?" A shallow life lives upon public recognition or friendly notice, and cannot exist without approbation. The love of approbation means vanity, and vanity grows by what it feeds on. The true Christian must live in his Master, follow the Captain of his salvation, commit his spirit into the hands of God, at the end of fifty years we will see how it all stands. Thus when some great historical character has been impeached or assaulted or humiliated, people come in the long-run to ask who it was that did it. Precisely so! Great infinite space asks who? and none can tell. Providence is a series of miracles. Every day is a new testament of wonders and signs wrought by God. Every pulse in its latest throb says, God lives, God loves, God saves; and so the little preacher ticks and beats and palpitates, and in all its vital action testifies God is good. Not drowning is as great a miracle as resurrection. The rivers shall not overflow thee: they want to do so; see how they come plunging down! but they break upon thee, and thou standest up a living pillar, a living witness, unhurt by their impotent rage.
There are great epochs or dates of life. Hence the Lord says in the fourth verse,—
"Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee." ( Isaiah 43:4)
Almighty God, thy greatness is thy goodness: because thou art great thou art kind. Thine omnipotence is pledged on behalf of those who trust thee in Christ Jesus the Lord; a great voice comes down from heaven, saying, All things are yours; and ye are Christ"s; and Christ is God"s. Yea, and voices rise from thy church, saying, If God be for us, who can be against us? It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again, and is now on the right hand of God. Song of Solomon, then, all things are on the side of those who trust thee and love thee at the Cross; no manner of good shall be withheld from them; thou wilt withhold no blessing from him that walketh uprightly. He is not to measure his strength by himself, but by thine omnipotence; he carries the thunder of God. We bless thee for the exceeding great and precious promises, for they nourish and comfort the soul with infinite solace; we fall back upon them, and acknowledge them with religious thankfulness. Nor do we accept them as mere comfort, but as inspirations, encouragements to higher and more strenuous endeavour, so that we may turn them into noble actions, and prove how deep our trust is by showing the reality of our sacrifice. God is with us, and the blessed Song of Solomon, and the eternal Spirit; we have all things and abound. We cannot fail in this war; we cannot be outrun in this race; this feast can never be exhausted; it is spread in the banqueting-chamber of creation, it is laid by the hands of God. Amen.
Weary of God
God knows what is the matter with us. He knows whether it is unbelief, or indifference; whether it is a new and perplexing view, or whether it is a closing of the eyes and a total disregard of all aspects of life. Does he care for us enough to consider what our relation to him is in reality? Does he keep some thermometer by which he can mark the rise and fall of our zeal? Surely there must be a thermometer somewhere, for ever and anon we find in the Bible distinct indications of change—now it is a rise and now it is a fall; now we are weak, now we are strong; at one moment we are regarded as faint, at another moment we are registered as courageous. One man kept the record, and wrote with a strong hand, "Weary not in well doing." "Ye did run well; who did hinder you?" Life is not lived without notice, without record; there is a distinct and daily and momently registration of every pulse that beats in us, every aspiration that stirs our life upward, every desire that draws us as thirst draws the hart to the water-brooks.
Here is a distinct complaint: "Thou hast been weary of me, O Israel:" thou hast had enough of me; thou hast been with me and in my service to the point of satiety; thine ear is sated with my name, and thy heart is surfeited with my memory and my service. Is it possible to become weary of the worship and service of God? We know by experience how possible and even easy it is. There are times when we are weary of church, and prayer, and service of every kind. It is best to acknowledge this lest we excuse our weakness with a lie. At the same time we should look at the weariness discriminatingly lest we load ourselves with needless reproaches. First, let there be frank confession: we can make no progress until we have washed our hands, then we may reason with God, and God will reason with us. First, he says, wash your hands; put away the evil of your doings: now let us reason together. As a matter of fact, the Church is weary of God, the age is tired of religion, the Church is an incubus upon society. Were we to leave the charge there we should wholly misrepresent the case. Yet we lose nothing by frankness of confession, provided we limit our confession to occasional moods and intermittent experiences, and do not confound the real solid settled habit of mind with transient emotions or sensations or declensions. Let us face the difficulty squarely and broadly. We never gain anything by evading difficulties: they are not to be dodged, they are to be removed. A day of confession may be a day of black ness, like the darkness which immediately precedes the dawn. We shall be the better for telling God that he is perfectly correct in his judgment when he says that we are often weary of him. But may we not become weary of mere ceremony, or form, or routine? That weariness does not always relate to the inner quality, the spiritual reality and truth, but it relates to the mechanical iteration of duties, observances, rites, and ceremonies; the turning of that great wheel has a lulling effect upon us, so much so that we are asleep when we thought we were beginning to pray. Let us discriminate then. After all, it may not have been real worship we were weary of, but simulated worship, mechanical repetition, which had degenerated into lifelessness and monotony.
Sometimes our weariness is physical. Who can add up the debts of the body? Who can send in a true bill of particulars to the flesh? How it drags us down, overshadows us, mocks us, aggravates its own weight, until we cannot lift it, and then it suffocates us with heavy oppressiveness. Others are physically weak; they suffer on the other side of fleshly limitation and burdensomeness; they are not full-blooded, they inherit a thousand difficulties, perplexities, blindnesses, which they cannot explain and cannot escape; the head aches, the poor strength gives way under the increasing burden, the eyes become so dim that they cannot see whether the hand is going to the right or to the left or seizing the right instrument. God knows it all, and he will not judge the weak one harshly. He has special promises for the weak, and as for his Son it is among his glories that he has the tongue of the learned, and is able to speak a word in season to him that is weary. Let us here pluck up courage like men who have heard a message from the King, and are told that weakness is not faithlessness when it can be traced to physical causes.
May we not sometimes be conscious of a weakness that is reactionary? We are not yet conscious of immortality; we are yet in the body, we bear about the writing of condemnation in the flesh; we have passed through regeneration, but not through resurrection, and our doctrine is that resurrection must complete what regeneration began; meanwhile, we have to encounter all the difficulties and disadvantages connected with the flesh; we have been in high excitement, and the natural consequence is that we fall correspondingly in moral enthusiasm, in spiritual rapture and ecstasy. We cannot always be upon the mountain, Now and again God gives us mountain air and mountain views and mountain light, and we think it is going to continue so evermore; when, lo! we are suddenly brought down the hill into the damp relaxing valleys, where our strength gives way, where we forget much of what we have seen in the upper places and sacred liberties of the elevated region. We have been in such rapture that it would seem as if blank atheism alone could be its counterpart. How far is it from the zenith to the nadir? Remember, that we, too, have our zenith, our highest point; and our nadir, our lowest point; but still, whether at the one or at the other, we are in God"s universe, and are reckoned amongst his stars, or at least among the paler beams that drop from the minor planets. Where weariness comes from reaction it must not be judged harshly. As well say that a man is a traitor to the stewardship of life because he has been working so hard all day that he has fallen into a deep sleep at night; rather count his sleep a tribute to his industry than credit his industry with a flaw on account of his slumber.
There is a sense in which our very weariness may be an honour to us. Sometimes our weariness is a protest against vain service or perfunctory worship; then it is to our honour. We are men who say, "We become weary of this." Religion is life, or it is nothing; religion is passion, or it has no meaning; Christianity is a Cross, or it is a mockery. Where men would give us stones for bread we have a right to become weary. Congregations should fall asleep under any man who offers them a scorpion for an egg, a stone for bread. It would be the severest rebuke that could be administered to a traitorous trustee that his audience should slumber when he thus mocks the desire of the human heart Before, therefore, condemning ourselves too severely for weariness, let us institute a process of examination, and let us be content to abide by fact.
Having thus cleared the ground of some possible misconceptions, we have only brought ourselves face to face with the appalling fact that the soul may become really weary of God. We have lost nothing of standing ground by making confessions and distinctions, but if we have accepted these in the right spirit and measure we are the better prepared to face the appalling charge that we who once loved the Saviour with a passionate affection have become the slaves or the victims of rival claims. We think we know the prayer before it is uttered; we suppose ourselves to be perfectly familiar with the hymn before the tune has made itself heard; we think we know all the preacher is going to say before he opens his mouth; and as for the Bible we suppose ourselves, with deadly delusion, to have read it—a miracle which no man can accomplish. The Bible is always to be read; it has a thousand beginnings, it has no end. On the other hand, how prone we are to blame the preacher for our weariness and to credit the service with our indifference! How often shall we repeat the doctrine that a good hearer makes a good preacher! and how often shall we reiterate the view that the hearer is as much bound to be prepared as is the preacher! Is all the preparation to be in the pulpit? Is the minister always to be a radiant angel, eloquent with praise and prayer? and is the hearer to be but an indifferent listener? When the hearer hastens to the church, saying, I will see my God today, I will meet my Lord this morning; may the Father, the Song of Solomon, and the Holy Ghost, inspire the teacher that he may see far and clearly, and speak wisely and well,—that hearer will never be disappointed. We are always in danger of weariness through what we call the monotony of life. There is not sufficient distinction between the days. We easily fall into circumstances in which we forget the succession of days. A man who is on the sea day after day has sometimes to inquire what day it Isaiah, what date it is; the days are blurred into one another, and the man cannot distinguish in the confusion. So it is with life in some of its broadest aspects. One day is so like another; the same bell rings, the same meal is spread, the same duty calls, and by-and-by we become weary of it all. Then there is our conscious limitation: how far can we go? We know almost to a mile where we must stop. Our courage is not allowed to overleap certain lines: it would do so; sometimes it seems to say, This shall be a day of liberty, and I will know more than I have ever known before of God"s method; today I may be able to force the divine hand, and see what is next to be done; I will not live in the little cage of today, I will live and sing in the great liberty of the future. This cannot be done. We are still puzzling over the same old lesson; again and again we recur to first principles; often we try to whisper ourselves into a new faith by promising ourselves that we shall yet see what we have not before beheld. Thus every day is a day of disappointments; the evening and the morning are not one day; the morning comes in with great promises; the evening closes with great disappointments. We are always just about to enter, yet our fingers cannot quite grasp the handle of the door; we are just about to seize the prize, and it recedes, and Tantalus burns with thirst; we are sure that tomorrow we shall see the fuller light, and tomorrow is as dull and grey as yesterday; we say, At midday we shall hear the blast of the trumpet and go forth to meet the descending King, and forget time"s troubles in the quiet and joy of eternity,—and lo! at midday we hear but a thunderstorm, and lose sight of one another in sevenfold darkness; thus our patience dies, and the soul sinks in great weariness. What a trial to every mind this constant repetition of religious service must be! It is a heavy trial to the conductor of such services. How much we expect of the poor man who leads our worship and directs our studies: what little pity we have for him! Every Sabbath he must perform a miracle of resurrection upon our dead piety; we have been in the world six days, buying, selling, getting gain, or making losses, we have forgotten the whole conception of God, and we expect some brother man to come and revive us and recreate us and make us fit instruments to be played upon, and having retuned the instrument he must discourse the very music of heaven upon us, or we complain of inferiority, inability, monotony.
From the divine side there comes a lesson that ought not to be overlooked:—"Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings" ( Isaiah 43:23). Here the text is difficult of English representation. Where others so mighty have failed we shall not attempt to succeed; but may we not pause and ask whether some emphasis may not be laid upon the designation "the small cattle"? Do not many men fail in religious details? They are emphatic in their stupendous word-creed, but they do not bless some little child on the road to church, or bring some wandering soul to the Church home. We might bring a little crowd with us if we cared to do so. We could give away so much alms on the road to church that people would say, Where is that man going? we must see the destiny of so good a soul! What if they were thus led into the church? We do certain great or conspicuous things, and we forget the small cattle, the little offerings and tributes. Every omission is noticed: "Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices" ( Isaiah 43:24). Does God care for our sweet cane? Does he like to see us spending a trifle upon some cane stick that we may take it and offer it as if it were a flower? Yet he hath no need of any service of the kind; the silver and the gold are his, and the cattle upon a thousand hills; all rams that browse, or cattle that feed in Nebaioth or on Kedar are his: yet it pleases him that we should with some small piece of money buy sweet cane. Observe how he notes the omissions! This might be the very voice of Christ who said to Simon the Pharisee, "I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment." What an eye is the eye of Omniscience! It notices every slip and flaw and omission. That would, indeed, be a miserable declaration to make if it stood alone; but it only leads to the fuller declaration that it notices every cup of cold water, every widow"s gift, every child"s service. God is not unrighteous to forget your work of faith and labour of love. He challenges Israel:—"Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that they mayest be justified." Translated:—"Remind me if thou canst of thy merits;" if I have forgotten aught, tell me what I have forgotten, if I am charging thee by mistake, correct my mistake. "Remind me of my promises" may be another translation of the word. But we accept the words as a challenge. The Lord has made a charge upon us, and now he says. Put me in remembrance, if I have forgotten anything: if thou hast had thy small cattle with thee, show me them. He would apologise to us if we could convict him of having made an omission.
The Lord is weary of us sometimes. What wonder? "Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them." Is our weariness actual, explicable, yea, as it were religious, or an aspect of our religion? Does it come of brokenheartedness? Then there is a special word to each: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." In this sense we are all welcome on the very ground of our weariness. Let us say, Lord, thou art right, thy judgment is true; we thought sin would be a pleasure, a Song of Solomon, and a banquet of delights; we said sin is an easy weight, and we put on its yoke, saying it will take little. or no strength to carry: but we were wrong; sin has eaten our life, blinded our vision, excluded the light; it has grown little by little and day by day, until we feel as if we were carrying mountain piled on mountain. Wilt thou now pity us? We have no right to ask even for pity, for this is sin, not misfortune, we have brought it all upon ourselves; but somehow, whether from mother"s speech or thine own written Book, or a voice in the heart other than our own, we have come to feel that after all our weariness shall prevail where our strength could do nothing, and where thou, O Son of God, wouldst pass a Pharisee in disdain thou wilt stop to talk to a blind Prayer of Manasseh, and thou wilt not leave him until he sees how high is thy bright blue heaven. Let us renew our vows. We are all weary, but there is a weariness that is no shame; if we are weary of good because we want to do evil, if we are weary of discipline because we want the licence of iniquity, then is our weariness a reproach and an abomination. When we do one-half for the Church what we do for ourselves we shall have some right to be weary. How men slave for themselves! How they gather it all together, and when they are putting out their palsied hand for the last increment, they and their burden together fall into the open grave. What if a voice should say, Thou fool I thou fool!
Almighty God, the living, the living shall praise thee, as we do this day. Thy works towards us have been wonderful in love; thou hast magnified thy mercy towards us, so that we can now say, His mercy endureth for ever. Thou art merciful unto the children of men always, but peculiarly merciful unto those who look upward and expect thee with their love and cry unto thee with sincerest desire; towards all such thy mercy is tender mercy and thy kindness is loving kindness. Who can tell what mystery of love thou canst work out; who can say where God shall terminate his ministry of pity? We know not what thou wilt do, but it will be worthy of thyself, it will be measured upon the scale of eternity, it will be glorious in majesty, or tender in compassion; upon it shall thy signature be found, and we know in very deed that thy signature is Love. For all thy tender care, thy patient endurance, thy longsuffering, how can we bless thee? Thou mightest have cut us off in the midst of our days, and hurled us away like a shepherd that had no tent; but thou hast spared us, and tried us, and renewed our opportunities, and in manifold ways hast thou shown thy tender interest in us, if haply we might be recovered from the end of our ways, from the ruin that lies at the end of our paths. What shall we say of the Cross of Christ, the greatest manifestation of all of the love and pity, the righteousness and mercy, of the living God? Herein is love: while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. If thou hast not spared thine only begotten Song of Solomon, but freely delivered him up for us all, we need have no care, no fear, no doubt; thou wilt also with him freely give us all things—all rest, all conquest, all heaven. May we realise this inheritance of joy, may we know that this is so in very deed; may no man come and steal away our faith, or poison our trust, or pervert our judgment. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever. May we rest in thine almightiness; may we hide ourselves in the sanctuary of thy love. Amen.
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 43". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://pro.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent