Mornings With God

Woe to you experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You devour widows’ property, and as a show you pray long prayers! Therefore you will receive a more severe punishment.

[Matt 23:14 NET]

Usually we see the gentle phases of Christ’s character and teaching. He is compassionate toward suffering and sorrow. He is so gentle that He will not break a bruised reed nor quench a dimly burning wick.

But here we see Him in a severe and stern aspect. He speaks to the Pharisees in scathing denunciation. They taught the truths of God, but did not live them. They made great display of devoutness, but it was only that men might think them religious.

The Master’s arraignment of the Pharisees was terribly severe. But the same lips uttered these woes that uttered the Beatitudes and the gracious invitations to the weary and the heavy–laden.

Christ is holy as well as loving. Penitence is welcomed to His feet, but hypocrisy is denounced. In the last verses of this chapter we see both aspects. He arraigns Jerusalem for the murder of the prophets and the rejection of heaven’s messengers, and then tells how He would have gathered the people in love, but they would not.

Comfort

But he replied, “You’re talking like one of the godless women would do! Should we receive what is good from God, and not also receive what is evil?” In all this Job did not sin by what he said.

[Job 2:10 NET]

So often weak faith is moved from its steadfastness, by trials. People say, “God cannot love me–or he would not send this affliction upon me!” Job’s answer, however, shows nobler faith. We take good, earthly good, from God’s hands. We believe that God loves us–so long as he showers upon us favors, and gives us pleasant things, joys and prosperities. Very well. But when he changes the form of his providence, and gives us troubles instead of favors, should we conclude that he no longer loves us?

In the case of the change in his treatment of Job–we are permitted to look within the heart of God, to learn what his feelings were, and we see that he had never loved his servant more than when he was allowing him to suffer so sorely!

At the close of the first trial, Job said, “The Lord gave–and the Lord has taken away.” The same Lord who gave—took away! Yes, and the same love! God knows best, what we need any particular day, and what will most advance the kingdom of Christ; and we ought to trust him so implicitly, so unquestioningly, that whether he gives a new favor–or takes one away; whether he grants us our request–or withholds it; whether he bestows upon us earthly good–or causes us to suffer loss and adversity—we shall still believe and say, “God loves me, and he is blessing me!”

“Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return! The Lord gave–and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!” Job 1:21

Comfort

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a pure and upright man, one who fears God and turns away from evil. And he still holds firmly to his integrity, so that you stirred me up to destroy him without reason.”

[Job 2:3 NET]

It is a noble thing, when a man stands steadfast and faithful to God in the midst of trials and adversities. Such a man is like a mighty rock under the beatings of the angry waves of the sea.

Thus Job stood. Trial after trial came. His property was swept away by marauders and by fire, and his children were crushed by falling walls, until in a little while he was stripped of all he had, and left a childless man! His heart was broken with sorrow–but his faith failed not. The Lord kept his eye upon his servant, and was pleased to see how trustingly he endured his losses and sorrows.

The affliction of Job, as described here from the divine side, suggests to us, what may ofttimes be the reason for trouble in the lives of God’s children. Job suffered in order to prove to a scoffing adversary, the genuineness of his religion. Job did not know why these sore losses came upon him. Likewise, we do not know, when we are in trouble, why God sends or permits the affliction. But we should always bear ourselves so as to honor God, and prove the reality and sincerity of our faith. We are set to witness to the power of divine grace in trial, and should not fail God nor disappoint him. No duty of ours is more sacred–than being true to God in pain and trouble. To murmur or complain—is to sin.

Comfort

So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread all the time!”

[John 6:34 NET]

That was a good prayer. It is just the prayer for each one of us–every day! But the people who made it first, did not know what they were asking.

It is often so in our praying. We have a dim, glimmering vision of something very beautiful–but it is only a shadowy vision to us. The thing we think we want, is not the thing at all that God had in mind in his promise. He meant something most worthy–but we have in our mind the thought of something material and earthly. It is well that we have an Intercessor into whose hands all our requests must pass, who will take our poor, mistaken prayers–and interpret them aright for us, giving us, not what we thought we would get–but something better, diviner!

Abraham sought all his life, for a country which he never received. But he got something better in his unavailing search–his faith was growing all the while; his thoughts and hopes were turned to spiritual things, of which the earthly possessions he sought were only shadows. So it is in the disappointments of our praying: what we seek–we find not—but meanwhile we are getting blessings a thousand times better. On weary paths of earth where we toil in search of supposed blessings, we are really rising step by step on invisible stairs, and reaching blessings of which the earthly illusions were only pictures.

Mornings With God

The king asked, “Is there not someone left from Saul’s family, that I may extend God’s kindness to him?” Ziba said to the king, “One of Jonathan’s sons is left; both of his feet are crippled.”

[2 Sam 9:3 NET]

Remembering kindness is a mark of a noble mind.

True friendship never forgets. Yet it looks as if David had forgotten his friend for a good while. It was fifteen years after Jonathan died when David looked up this son of Saul. Meanwhile the lame boy had been getting along as best he could, over at Lodebar.

A good many more of us show the same tardiness in doing the kindnesses we owe to others. We delay until our return has lost half its meaning. Indeed some of us never get the return made at all. We wait till the friend is dead, and then we send flowers for his coffin.

Is there one to whom you are indebted, waiting now, somewhere, in the shadow, for you to come to show him the kindness of God? Is there a child of someone dead who befriended you at a time when kindness meant much to you, now needing a friend? Should you not repay to the living the debt you owe to the dead?

Word of God

External Rites

Even now the ax is laid at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

[Matt 3:10 NET]

The picture is very suggestive. The axe lying at the tree’s root, or raised in the woodman’s hand to strike, shows that judgment impends, hangs ready to fall. Any moment the tree may be cut down. The axe lying at the tree’s root unused tells of patience in the husbandman; he is waiting to see if the fruitless tree will yet bear fruit, The axe leaning quietly against the tree is very suggestive, The meaning is very plain. God waits long for impenitent sinners to return to him; he is slow to punish or to cut off the day of opportunity; he desires all to repent and be saved. Yet we must not trifle with the Divine patience and forbearance. We must remember that while the axe is not lifted to strike, still there is not a moment when it is not lying close, ready to be used; when the summons may not come, “Hasten to judgment.” The axe of death really lies all the while at the root of every life. There is not a moment when it is not true that there is but a step between us and death.

The lying of the axe at the root suggests that its use is not pruning but cutting down. God has two axes. One he uses in pruning his trees, removing the fruitless branches, and cleansing the fruitful branches that they may bring forth more fruit. The work of this axe is not judgment or destruction, but mercy and blessing. It is the good, the fruitful tree that feels its keen edge. Then God has another axe which he uses only in judgment, in cutting down those trees which after all his culture of them bring forth no fruit. Life is all very critical. There is not a moment in any day on which may not turn all the destinies of eternity. It certainly is an infinitely perilous thing for an immortal soul to rest an hour with the axe of judgment waiting to strike the blow that will end for ever the day of mercy. Only supremest folly can be blind to duty in such a case.

Afternoon With God

One night in Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream. God said, “Tell me what I should give you.”

[1 Kgs 3:5 NET]

Solomon was beginning his reign. God came to him in a dream. The question the Lord asked Solomon is one He asks every young person. Some one says, “If God gave me my choice out of all the things that people desire, I would make a wise choice too.”

God does give to you the same privileges, your choice of all good things. Does not Christ say, “Ask, and ye shall receive”?

The days are like messengers from God, and we do not know what they carry and offer to us. We take a few simple things and let the divine messenger pass on.

“But why must I make a choice?” some one asks. “God is wiser than I am. He knows what is the best thing in all the world for me. Why does He not Himself choose for me, giving me that which is best? Why must I in my ignorance and inexperience choose for myself?”

One of the strange things about our life is that we must make our own choice. Even God cannot choose for the feeblest of His children.