A MEDITATION (3)*
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 unbelief – these are very powerful and affect us all at one time or another. If we feel to lack wisdom, and who does not? We are bidden to ask of God. “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth (in unbelief) is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord” (Jas. 1.6,7). Consider the case of Thomas. The Lord appeared after His resurrection and Thomas was not there! We are not told where he was, but what an example to us all to be where we should be Thomas expressed his unbelief vehemently, saying “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, / will not believe” (John 20.25). So strongly was this “chain” fastened upon him. However the Lord brought him out in such a remarkable way that he was overcome and could only say “My Lord and my God” (v28). Then were spoken those remarkable words which have been a comfort to many, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed” (v29).
Chains of covetousness – “Thou shalt not covet”, is one of the Ten Commandments, and in the New Testament we are exhorted to “covet earnestly the best gifts”. Coveting the things of this life or the things of others can be a dreadful thing amounting to a sinful obsession. On the practical level we should ask ourselves Â— Does our giving to the Lord’s cause rise in proportion to our income? The ravages of inflation over the last thirty years have distorted money values so much that we can easily be deceived. For example, thirty years ago one could purchase a large semi-detached house in S.E. England for Â£5000. Today that house might cost more than Â£150,000, (thirty times as much). If a testator having two children made his will thirty years ago leaving one a legacy of Â£5000 and the other the house, that would have been an equality if he had died soon after. If however, he died today, with the will unaltered, one of them would receive Â£5000 and the other Â£150,000 on the sale of the house. This can be applied to our own affairs particularly to our giving to the Lord’s work. When the Lord Jesus warned His
disciples “Take heed, and beware of covetousness”, He added, “For a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12.15). It has been said that the root of covetousness is distrust of God’s providence. This “chain” affects not only those who consider themselves poor. Covetousness can be insatiable. An old gentleman once asked a lad, “When was a covetous man rich enough?” “When he has a thousand pounds”, was the reply. “No”. “Two thousand”. “No”. “Twenty thousand”. “No”. “A hundred thousand”, said the lad in desperation; and still being told “No”, he confessed he could not say. His questioner then informed him, “When he has a little more than he has, and that is never”. Covetousness is observable in others but we must look to ourselves, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mk. 8.36,7).
Chains of pride. We are all afflicted with this “chain” all our days but it is an offence to the Almighty. No sinner saved by grace has any just reason for being proud. Sometimes those who seem to be most proud have the least reason for it and those who, objectively viewed, have some justification for being proud as man sees it, are especially blessed with a gracious humility! How true it is that God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise “that no flesh should glory in his presence” (1 Cor. 1.29). In his “Pilgrim’s Progress” John Bunyan has much to say about this “chain” and one verse comes to mind,
He that is down need fear no fall,
He that is low no pride,
He that is humble ever shall
Have God to be His guide.
A lady once asked a minister whether a person might not be fond of dress and ornaments without being proud. The minister replied, ‘When you see the fox’s tail peeping out of the hole you may be sure the fox is within”. There is also the danger of spiritual pride which is more subtle. Joseph Hart’s hymn on Jabez’s prayer puts it well and in a way which is applicable to all these chains, when he says,
And next to have our coast enlarged
Is, that our hearts extend their plan;
From bondage and from fear discharged
And filled with love to God and man;
To cast off every narrow thought,
And use the freedom Christ has brought.
To use this liberty aright,
And not the grace of God abuse,
We always need His hand, His might,
Lest what He gives us we should lose;
Spiritual pride would soon creep in,
And turn His very grace to sin.
Asaph also referred to this chain when speaking of the wicked. He said “Pride compasseth him about as a chain” (Ps. 73.6).
The Chain of over-reliance and dependence upon our blessings. We strive so much for them that we tend to put them before Christ! Truly the Lord has given us richly all things to enjoy, but do we enjoy Him in them?
I thank Thee, Lord, that all my joy is touched with pain,
That shadows fall on brightest hours – that thorns remain,
So that earth’s bliss may be my guide and not my chain.
These words deserve our careful meditation. Are these blessings all around us as “chains” to us? They chain us to earth and the things of earth and “all that is earth’s must perish”! We should strive to hold the things of earth with a light hand, much as we appreciate them. How can we thank God that “all our joy is touched with pain”? For one thing, because the pain reminds us that we are creatures passing through this world; we are pilgrims to the celestial city and must not rest in enchanted ground, much as it may appeal to our natural hearts. We should be on the stretch for Him who is our best Beloved! We are going home! Samuel Rutherford put it like this;
“Build not your nest on earth, for all the trees of the forest are given over to be burned”. In another aspect we get glimpses of earthly happiness in families, and then how soon Satan can get in and disturb the peace, and the happiness and joy is gone. “All to make is sick of self and fond of Him”. Similarly how can we thank the Lord “that shadows fall on brightest hours, that thorns remain”? The shadows and the thorns remind us again that earth is not our home, that we are passing through the world to our heavenly home.
The same truth is proclaimed by Thomas Kelly:
“We’ve no abiding city here”,
This may distress the worldling’s mind;
But should not cost the saint a tear,
Who hopes a better rest to find.
“We’ve no abiding city here”;
Sad truth were this to be our home;
But let this thought our spirits cheer,
We seek a city yet to come.
“We’ve no abiding city here”;
Then let us live as pilgrims do,
Let not the world our rest appear,
But let us haste from all below.
Anticipated happiness in this life sometimes does not come to pass, but we shall never be disappointed in Him! Glimpses of happiness and earthly love here below are to be enjoyed and encouraged; in the highest sense, that is what happens when Christ comes by His Spirit into our hearts and into the hearts of one and another for whom we have prayed, and He effectively brings out “those which are bound with chains”. Rightly viewed, however, earthly happiness and joy must be “our guide and not our chain” -our heart is in heaven. The Lord has reminded us “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6.21). So the glimpses of happiness here are a guide to those above.
Happiness, thou lovely name
Where’s thy seat, O tell me where?
Learning, pleasure, wealth and fame,
All cry out “It is not here”.
Object of my first desire,
Jesus crucified for me;
All to happiness aspire,
Only to be found in thee .
Source and giver of repose,
Singly from thy smile it flows;
Happiness complete is thine,
Mine it is, if thou art mine.
“The Lamb is all the glory of Immanuel’s land”, and He is all the desire of His people now. They then prove they are bound with love instead of bound with the chains of sin. Here there is the thorn that spoils everything but there “everlasting Spring abides and never-withering flowers”. Truly “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things God hath prepared for them that love Him” (1 Cor. 2.9).
We rejoice that it is still true that God “bringeth out those which are bound with chains”. He is still doing it in the hearts of those that love Him, and He has said He will for all these things be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them” (Ezek. 30.37). We seem to have a strong propensity for imprisoning ourselves in chains. Charles Wesley put it like this –
I have no skill the snare to shun,
But thou O Christ, my wisdom art;
I ever into ruin run,
But thou art greater than my heart.
Foolish and impotent and blind,
Lead me the way thy saints have known,
Bring me where I my heaven may find,
The heaven of loving thee alone.
We may not be tempted quite as Eve was, but sometimes, before we are aware we are trapped, and at other times we may be oblivious to he “chains” that bind us until the Lord brings us out. May we be savoured with gracious meditation to see how these “chains” may and do affect us, and pray that He will bring us out of them so that
we may love Him more and serve Him better.
To be concluded.
*Continued from Vol. 11, p.108.