A MEDITATION (4)*
God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains, but the rebellious dwell in a dry land. Ps. 68.6.
(3) cont. The chains which may bind God’s children.
Chains of a hard and unforgiving spirit. How sad to see persons hastened in this chain. It may be something that has been said or has happened in a family or in a church many years ago, and those in the grip of this “chain” will not be the first to express grief and sorrow at that, in its true light, is often an unnecessary and soul-destroying separation. May it be ours to desire with the apostle to be “all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: not rendering evil for evil” (1 Pet. 3′.8-11). In other cases it is sadly possible for us to deceive ourselves that we are contending for some vital truth when in fact we are contending for our own opinions. May we each be enabled to view these matters in the light of eternity
“Look at your work as you will look at it then,
Scanned by Jehovah and angels and men”.
The good Puritan Richard Sibbes said, “It were a good strife among Christians, one to labour to give no offence, and the other to labour to take none. The best men are severe to themselves, tender to others”. Sadly we seem sometimes to be the opposite – severe to others and tender to ourselves. May the Lord deliver us from this chain.
Chains of rebellion – open or secret: “but the rebellious dwell in a dry land”. When I see these words I think of myself and of the hymn
“Rebellious thou hast been, And art rebellous still;
But since in love I took thee in, My promise I’ll fulfill”.
Literally, a dry land in Israel of old was a disaster – it meant poverty and sometimes death. Everyone was so dependent upon rain, and if there was no rain dew was vital. It was one of God’s severe judgments upon Israel with its desperately wicked king Ahab and even more wicked queen Jezebel, that God sent His prophet Elijah to declare, “As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” (1 Kings 17.1). Spiritually if we are left to be rebellious we live in a “dry land”. There seems to be no dew nor unction of the Holy Spirit on the Word as it is read, nor on the preaching of the Word nor sadly, also in our private devotions. The Psalmist felt it to be so when he said “If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me” (Ps. 66.18). But, he was able to go on, “but verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me” (w. 19, 20). His rebellion was ended and he was brought out of those spiritual chains which bound him. Sometimes poor souls in their experiences consider that their hearts are so deceitful and desperately wicked that the Lord cannot have mercy. In extreme cases there is darkness that may be felt. Rightly viewed this is rebellion against the Lord for we must not limit Him nor His power. How sweetly and powerfully the Lord breaks this chain when He comes to visit the soul again.
Men are said to rebel when they fight or make war against their lawful king. We read of this in the time of Rehoboam, son of Solomon, who foolishly ignored the counsel of the old men whose advice he had sought, and spoke after the counsel of the young men saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions” (1 Kings 12.14). We then read the solemn words, ‘So Israel rebelled against the house of David” (vl9) leading to the revolt of the ten tribes. Much earlier in the Book of Numbers, we read of the children of Israel refusing to accept the report of Joshua
and Caleb that the land of promise was an exceeding good land flowing with milk and honey (ch.l4.v8), and rejecting the earnest plea of Joshua and Caleb, “Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not” (v9). But Israel did rebel, and wanted to stone Joshua and Caleb, preferring instead the testimony of the evil report of the ten other spies that the heathen tribes already in the promised land were very strong. “And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people we saw in it are men of great stature. And there we saw the giants the sons of Anak, which come of the giants; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (ch.13. v32,33). No wonder the congregation of the people lifted up their voices and wept, “and all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in the wilderness” (ch. 14.2). The Lord intervened in a wonderful way but it illustrates how we may bring some of our troubles upon ourselves by our rebellion.
In the Divine summary of God’s great mercy and providence over Israel in Psalm 107 we are told, “Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron; because they rebelled against the words of God and contemned the counsel of the most High: Therefore he brought down their heart with labour;
they fell down and there was none to help. Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder. Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” ;wl0-15). They rebelled against the words of God – that is what I fear religious leaders and others are doing today, hence the great concern for the future of our once-favoured nation.
Individually also we may be rebelling against God, and He has said, “Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6.7). How kind is the Lord! We read in Isaiah’s prophecy, “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them:
on his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and bare them, and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled and vexed his Holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them. Then he remembered the days of old, Moses and his people, saying Where is he that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of his flock? where is he that put his holy Spirit
within him? That led them by the right hand of Moses with his glorious arm, dividing the water before them to make himself an everlasting name? That led them through the deep as an horse in the wilderness, that they should not stumble?” (ch.63.9-13). Much earlier Moses had said to the children of Israel, “Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions; for my name is in him. But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies . . . For mine Angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites . .. and I will cut them off. Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works:
but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images. And ye shall serve the Lord your God, and He shall bless thy bread, and thy water: and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee” (Ex 23.20-25). The gracious promises of God to Israel through Moses were mixed with a warning, “Provoke him not”, and today the apostolic command to the Israel of God is, “Grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed to the day of redemption” (Eph 4.30).
The prophet Jonah rebelled against the Lord when he tried to run away from God’s command to warn Ninevah that great city “and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me” (ch.1.2). It was indeed a tremendous task and ended by “terrible things in righteousness” and in the end he was enabled to say with gracious confidence, “Salvation is of the Lord” (ch 2.9).
The Psalmist Asaph almost rebelled against the good hand of his God. He saw the wicked prospering and the righteous suffering until he went into the sanctuary of God, then he understood their end (Ps. 73.17), and he had to acknowledge, “So foolish was I and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee” (v22), and concluded in a wonderful way, “But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God that I may declare all thy works” (v28).
The apostle Peter affords us another example of rebellion. The Lord Jesus had just commended his remarkable statement when he said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mat 16.16), saying “flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (vl7). Soon after we read Peter took Jesus and “began to rebuke him” (v22); this rebellion seems breathtaking to us in its audacity! Although, to be fair to Peter, his mistaking of God’s eternal purposes arose no doubt out of his desire to spare his Master suffering and death. Truly it is only “through the cross” that we can “behold the crown”. Peter’s rebellion brought a crushing, though loving rebuke, from the Lord, “Get thee behind
me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me” (v23).
Many times have our souls cried out when we have seen something coming in the distance: “Not that way, Lord”. But so it is in the Divine purposes of love, the way the Lord brings us. “All to make us sick of self and fond of Him”. William Gadsby puts it so fully and appropriately in one of his hymns-
While Jesus whispers peace,
And unctuously displays
The matchless beauties of his grace,
Our hearts approve his ways.
But when the Lord withdraws
The unction of his love,
His will we wickedly oppose,
His judgments disapprove.
So fickle, false, and blind,
Are these unstable hearts,
We only are to God resigned,
As he the grace imparts.
Father, thy will be done,
In words we oft express;
When in our hearts we want our own,
And wish our sufferings less.
Dear God, our guilt forgive,
Thy pardoning love display;
And may we to thy glory live,
Thy righteous will obey.
Thy presence let us view
And give our conscience rest;
The visits of thy love renew,
Then do what thou think’st best.
* Continued from Vol. 11 p.153.