Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. -Ephesians 3:8
The apostle Paul felt it a great privilege to be allowed to preach the gospel. He did not look upon his calling as a drudgery, but he entered upon it with intense delight. Yet while Paul was thus thankful for his office, his success in it greatly humbled him. The fuller a vessel becomes, the deeper it sinks in the water. Idlers may indulge a fond conceit of their abilities, because they are untried; but the earnest worker soon learns his own weakness.
If you seek humility, try hard work; if you would know your nothingness, attempt some great thing for Jesus. If you would feel how utterly powerless you are apart from the living God, attempt especially the great work of proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ, and you will know, as you never knew before, what a weak unworthy thing you are.
Although the apostle thus knew and confessed his weakness, he was never perplexed as to the subject of his ministry. From his first sermon to his last, Paul preached Christ, and nothing but Christ. He lifted up the cross, and extolled the Son of God who bled thereon. Follow his example in all your personal efforts to spread the glad tidings of salvation, and let “Christ and him crucified” be your ever recurring theme.
The Christian should be like those lovely spring flowers which, when the sun is shining, open their golden cups, as if saying, “Fill us with thy beams!” but when the sun is hidden behind a cloud, they close their cups and droop their heads. So should the Christian feel the sweet influence of Jesus; Jesus must be his sun, and he must be the flower which yields itself to the Sun of Righteousness. Oh! to speak of Christ alone, this is the subject which is both “seed for the sower, and bread for the eater.” This is the live coal for the lip of the speaker, and the master-key to the heart of the hearer.
It is quite certain that those whom Christ has washed in his precious blood need not make a confession of sin, as culprits or criminals, before God the Judge, for Christ has forever taken away all their sins in a legal sense, so that they no longer stand where they can be condemned, but are once for all accepted in the Beloved; but having become children, and offending as children, ought they not every day to go before their heavenly Father and confess their sin, and acknowledge their iniquity in that character? Nature teaches that it is the duty of erring children to make a confession to their earthly father, and the grace of God in the heart teaches us that we, as Christians, owe the same duty to our heavenly Father. We daily offend, and ought not to rest without daily pardon.
For, supposing that my trespasses against my Father are not at once taken to him to be washed away by the cleansing power of the Lord Jesus, what will be the consequence? If I have not sought forgiveness and been washed from these offences against my Father, I shall feel at a distance from him; I shall doubt his love to me; I shall tremble at him; I shall be afraid to pray to him: I shall grow like the prodigal, who, although still a child, was yet far off from his father. But if, with a child’s sorrow at offending so gracious and loving a Parent, I go to him and tell him all, and rest not till I realize that I am forgiven, then I shall feel a holy love to my Father, and shall go through my Christian career, not only as saved, but as one enjoying present peace in God through Jesus Christ my Lord.
There is a wide distinction between confessing sin as a culprit, and confessing sin as a child. The Father’s bosom is the place for penitent confessions. We have been cleansed once for all, but our feet still need to be washed from the defilement of our daily walk as children of God.
If we withhold the doctrine of the sovereignty of God while discussing coronavirus, we withhold one of the most precious balms of comfort for the Christian found in the word of God. Scripture does not shrink back from showing us God’s sovereign rule amid distress, and neither should we. We indeed only have two choices when it comes to the evils besetting us in covid-19, either our Lord is still in control, or something else is, and he is doing the best he can to manage the situation and turn it for our good. The latter would be an appalling reality because God would no longer be God, and we would have no reason to take comfort. Psalm 93 is an excellent place to find real comfort, especially if we read it in light of the multiple distresses that are coming our way due to coronavirus.
The Reign of God
1. The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
The first two verses of this short psalm begin by focusing our attention on the attributes of God, primarily as they relate to his sovereign reign. It does not matter what we may face, his throne is established, and his eternal decree orders all things.
He is robed in majesty. Sovereignty is his garment. He is the supreme authority over all things, and He has put on strength as his belt. The belt that holds his rule in place is his power. His omnipotence can never be thwarted. No sin of man, no deadly virus, or any other calamity can ever diminish his perfections. He reigns on high.
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. The world will stand as long as our Father wants it to stand. Humanity will endure as long as he sees fit. Even considering covid-19, the planet continues orbiting the sun and spins with perfection upon its axis, all because of our Father’s established rule.
2 Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting.
His throne is established from of old; He is from everlasting. We may not have been paying much attention to it before now, but once a microscopic particle altered our lives, we began looking around for meaning. Our minds were turned to thoughts of our frailty and his strength. As Charles Spurgeon put it, though he may now appear in more conspicuous sovereignty, He is no upstart sovereignty. He is from everlasting. The Lord is eternal, and so are his glorious attributes.
Coronavirus Lifts Its Voice
3 The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring.
The floods have lifted up, O Lord. We saw it first when a few people began to get sick and and some of them die. Then it began to spread, and the number of those infected began to grow. The whole world began to pay attention to the rising tide.
The floods have lifted up their voice. We heard its shouts of conquest as it began to conquer one country after another. Victory after victory, as it shut down enterprise after enterprise and sent people running for the cover of their homes.
The floods lift up their roaring. The market crashed, employment rates crumbled, and grocery stores were depleted. The sound of the roar sent anxiety and distress deep into the heart of nations as wave after wave was announced in real-time on the news and in social media.
God is More Mighty than the Virus
4 Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty!
As we trembled before the tempest, we were reminded that there is one who is more mighty. The Lord can restrain it. His knowledge and power are far greater than that of any enemy. He can bring it to an end in an instant if he so chooses. He is the Almighty. This truth also means he could have prevented it if he had desired, but he did not. His ways are higher than ours.
5 Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O Lord, forevermore.
His Decrees are very trustworthy. What he chooses to do is right, even if we do not fully understand. His word stands unmoved. His promises do not waiver amid chaos. We are to build our house on the rock, and when the waves crash upon it, it will stand. He is trustworthy.
Holiness befits his house, O Lord forevermore. All he does is good, and even the distress we face is for the good of those who love him. God is light, and in him, there is no darkness at all. As he wears the robe of majesty, the only proper adornment of his house is holiness. It is his beauty and splendor. It is also the only ornament appropriate for his people. Through the tumult, he is orchestrating it all to conform us to his image and adorn us in a similar beauty. He will complete the work he has begun in us, and we never need to fear because his reign will never end. He is the Lord forevermore.
Ever to be remembered is that best and brightest of hours, when first we saw the Lord, lost our burden, received the roll of promise, rejoiced in full salvation, and went on our way in peace. It was springtime in the soul; the winter was past; the mutterings of Sinai’s thunders were hushed; the flashings of its lightnings were no more perceived; God was beheld as reconciled; the law threatened no vengeance, justice demanded no punishment. Then the flowers appeared in our heart; hope, love, peace, and patience sprung from the sod; the hyacinth of repentance, the snowdrop of pure holiness, the crocus of golden faith, the daffodil of early love, all decked the garden of the soul. The time of the singing of birds was come, and we rejoiced with thanksgiving; we magnified the holy name of our forgiving God, and our resolve was, “Lord, I am thine, wholly thine; all I am, and all I have, I would devote to thee. Thou hast bought me with thy blood–let me spend myself and be spent in thy service. In life and in death let me be consecrated to thee.” How have we kept this resolve? Our espousal love burned with a holy flame of devoutedness to Jesus–is it the same now?
Might not Jesus well say to us, “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love”? Alas! it is but little we have done for our Master’s glory. Our winter has lasted all too long. We are as cold as ice when we should feel a summer’s glow and bloom with sacred flowers. We give to God pence when he deserveth pounds, nay, deserveth our heart’s blood to be coined in the service of his church and of his truth. But shall we continue thus? O Lord, after thou hast so richly blessed us, shall we be ungrateful and become indifferent to thy good cause and work? O quicken us that we may return to our first love, and do our first works! Send us a genial spring, O Sun of Righteousness.
I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee. – Isaiah 44:22
Sins Like Clouds
Attentively observe the instructive similitude: our sins are like a cloud. As clouds are of many shapes and shades, so are our transgressions. As clouds obscure the light of the sun, and darken the landscape beneath, so do our sins hide from us the light of Jehovah’s face, and cause us to sit in the shadow of death. They are earth-born things, and rise from the miry places of our nature; and when so collected that their measure is full, they threaten us with storm and tempest. Alas! that, unlike clouds, our sins yield us no genial showers, but rather threaten to deluge us with a fiery flood of destruction. O ye black clouds of sin, how can it be fair weather with our souls while ye remain?
The Clouds Blotted Out
Let our joyful eye dwell upon the notable act of divine mercy–“blotting out.” God himself appears upon the scene, and in divine benignity, instead of manifesting his anger, reveals his grace: he at once and forever effectually removes the mischief, not by blowing away the cloud, but by blotting it out from existence once for all. Against the justified man no sin remains, the great transaction of the cross has eternally removed his transgressions from him. On Calvary’s summit the great deed, by which the sin of all the chosen was forever put away, was completely and effectually performed.
Return to the Lord
Practically let us obey the gracious command, “return unto me.” Why should pardoned sinners live at a distance from their God? If we have been forgiven all our sins, let no legal fear withhold us from the boldest access to our Lord. Let backslidings be bemoaned, but let us not persevere in them. To the greatest possible nearness of communion with the Lord, let us, in the power of the Holy Spirit, strive mightily to return. O Lord, this night restore us!
Whatever trials you have, my dear brother, Christ is all in all to meet them. Are you poor? He will make you rich in your poverty by His consoling presence. Are you sick? He will make your bed in your sickness, and so will make your sick-bed better than the walks of health. Are you persecuted? If it is for His sake, you may even leap for joy. Are you oppressed? Remember how He also was oppressed and afflicted; and you will have fellowship with Him in his sufferings.
Amidst all the vicissitudes of this present life, Christ is all that the believer needs to bear him up, and bear him through. No wave can sink the man who clings to this life-buoy; he shall swim to glory on it! Jesus is all I need!
the living water to quench my thirst,
the heavenly bread to satisfy my hunger,
the snow-white robe to cover me,
the sure refuge in times of trouble,
the happy home of my soul,
my food and my medicine,
my solace and my song,
my light and my delight.
The believer can say, “Christ is mine!” No emperor is half as rich as the beggar that has Christ! He who has Christ, being a pauper, has all things. And he who has not Christ, possessing a thousand worlds, possesses nothing for real happiness and joy!
Oh, the blessedness of the man who can say, “Christ is mine!”
Let the people renew their strength. – Isaiah 41:1
All things on earth need to be renewed. No created thing continues by itself. “Thou renewest the face of the year,” was the Psalmist’s utterance. Even the trees, which wear not themselves with care, nor shorten their lives with labor, must drink of the rain of heaven and suck from the hidden treasures of the soil. The cedars of Lebanon, which God has planted, only live because day by day they are full of sap fresh drawn from the earth.
Neither can man’s life be sustained without renewal from God. As it is necessary to repair the depletion of the body by the frequent meal, so we must repair the depletion of the soul by feeding upon the Book of God, or by listening to the preached Word, or by the soul-fattening table of the ordinances.
How depressed are our graces when means are neglected! What poor starvelings some saints are who live without the diligent use of the Word of God and secret prayer! If our piety can live without God it is not of divine creating; it is but a dream; for if God had begotten it, it would wait upon him as the flowers wait upon the dew.
Without constant restoration we are not ready for the perpetual assaults of hell, or the stern afflictions of heaven, or even for the strifes within. When the whirlwind shall be loosed, woe to the tree that hath not sucked up fresh sap, and grasped the rock with many intertwisted roots. When tempests arise, woe to the mariners that have not strengthened their mast, nor cast their anchor, nor sought the haven.
If we allow the good to grow weaker, the evil will surely gather strength and struggle desperately for the mastery over us; and so, perhaps, a painful desolation, and a lamentable disgrace may follow. Let us draw near to the footstool of divine mercy in humble entreaty, and we shall realize the fulfillment of the promise, “They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.”
Burning indignation grips me, because of the wicked who have forsaken Your law. -Psalm 119:53
My soul, do you feel this holy shuddering at the sins of others? If not, you lack inward holiness. David’s cheeks were wet with rivers of waters, because of prevailing unholiness. Jeremiah desired eyes like fountains, that he might lament the iniquities of Israel. Lot, a righteous man, was distressed by all the immorality and wickedness around him. Those upon whom the mark was set in Ezekiel’s vision, were those who sighed and cried for the abominations of Jerusalem.
It cannot but grieve gracious souls, to see what pains men take to go to Hell! Christians know the evil of sin experimentally, and they are alarmed to see others flying like moths into its blaze! Sin makes the righteous shudder, because it violates God’s holy law, which it is to every man’s highest interest to keep. Sin pulls down the pillars of the society! Sin in others horrifies a believer, for it puts him in mind of the vileness of his own heart. When he sees a heinous sinner, he cries, “He fell today, and I may fall tomorrow!”
Sin is horrible to a believer, because it crucified his Savior! He sees in every iniquity–the nails and spear. How can a believer behold that cursed kill-Christ sin without abhorrence? Say, my heart–do you sensibly join in all this? It is an awful thing to insult God to His face. The good God deserves better treatment, the great God claims it, and the just God will have it–or repay His adversary to his face!
An awakened heart trembles at the audacity of sin, and stands alarmed at the contemplation of its punishment. How monstrous a thing is rebellion! How direful a doom is prepared for the ungodly! My soul, never laugh at sin’s fooleries–lest you come to smile at sin itself! Sin is your enemy, and your Lord’s enemy–view it with detestation, for only so can you evidence the possession of holiness, without which no man can see the Lord.
But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. – Luke 15:20
What a beautiful picture we have here. The prodigal has returned home, but only after forsaking his father and laying waste to his inheritance. The prodigal, living comfortably in his father’s house wells up with pride and renounces his father’s authority. He requests his estate and leaves. Filling his life with debauchery, he takes harlots as his companions, feeds his lusts, and squanders his father’s precious gifts. Oh’ but the child of God is never outside their Father’s providence, and famine hits the land. The prodigal’s hopes are soon dashed upon the rocks of vanity and sin, and he finds himself in bondage.
He is joined to a citizen of that country where he is required to feed pigs. In this state, the lords of this country do not offer him anything but to eat and sleep in the pig stalls. For a Jewish man to live with pigs is but another image of his descent into spiritual impurity. Sin brings temporary satisfaction but piles on long-lasting burdens, impossible to remove. The prodigal is in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction and delusion, but the grace of God is far reaching, and the prodigal comes to himself and says, “It would be better to be a slave in my father’s house than to live here.” What a shame it is, that many never come to themselves and never feel the burden of sin on their back, and what a shame many who do feel it, never venture to go home. They die in their despair, seeking some way to have the burden removed. They sink ever slowly into the “slough of despond.” What a shame, many have even taken their own lives in this despondency.
In his unworthy state, covered in the stains and wounds of the foreign land, the prodigal walks slowly home, crestfallen, seeking only servitude in the house of his father. However, he is not even worthy of that, for dishonoring your father and mother is a crime worthy of death under the law.
When he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion. Our Father’s eyes are ever on us, even when we cannot see Him. When our heads hang low, dejected from our sin, He looks and has compassion. How His heart aches when His children hurt, even from their self-inflicted wounds. The prodigal’s father then ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. Before the son could say a word, the father had placed his lips upon his son. He did not wait until the filth was washed away. Nor was he concerned with any of the scoffing that the community might bring.
Oh, the kisses of the Father say so much. The kiss shows much love for the son. There has been no loss of love in the heart of the father. No uncertainty in the love for his child has occurred due to his son’s crimes. The kiss demonstrates full forgiveness, as it speaks of absolution. The debt the son incurred has been forgotten, and the burden of sin and guilt is gone. In the kisses of God, we see full restoration. The son is as much a son as he had ever been; the thoughts of servitude in his father’s house are to be rejected. No more food fit for swine, nor clothes fit for prisoners. There shall be a feast fit for royalty, a new robe is to be placed upon him, and a ring to signify to the world that he is part of his father’s family. The son has full restoration, and all this happens before the son can speak his confession, which he has undoubtedly been rehearsing.
There is a beauty in true humility, for it does not flow from our natural self. It is the direct result of the working of the Spirit of God. Nevertheless, the son proceeds to acknowledge his sin before his father. True repentance is shown in this way, that even those accepted by the father long to confess. It is almost as if the son is making sure the father realizes what he has done. He wants to make sure his sin is fully understood before accepting the welcome. Oh, but the father knows, and this kiss was no mistake.
Those who come to the Father by faith, in repentance, will receive all the kisses of God. We are given the kiss of a new heart and a new spirit as our hearts of stone are turned to hearts of flesh by the grace of God. We are kissed with strong assurance. Though the prodigal may have intense fears of walking away again, we see that the father is not apprehensive that son will disgrace his mercy and forgiveness. For the Father knows that of those who are His, He will not lose one of them.
There is also the kiss of intimate communion. The kisses that God gives are not like the kisses of Judas. Our Father looks at us and sees everything we are. He sees all of our depravity, yet He places His lips upon us and kisses us with close communion. The kiss He gives is more intimate in it than a husband could give his wife, or a wife could give her husband.
Children of God and those who long to be, run to your father while there is still time. Satan tells you that you are unworthy of the kisses of God, and the truth is you have never been worthy nor will you ever be, but that is the very reason you must go. Only the kisses of your father can offer you anything. The world will offer you its kisses, but they are the kisses of Judas. Betraying kisses that will lead to your demise. Reject the kisses of this world and run to your Father.
There are kisses for every one of your despairs. Every wound and disease that eats at your soul can be addressed by the kisses of God. It would be worthwhile to quote Charles Spurgeon at length here, for much of this was drawn from his influence.
“Perhaps one whom I am addressing says, “even though I confess my sin, and seek God’s mercy, I shall still be in sore trouble for through my sin I have brought myself down to poverty.” “There is a kiss for you,” says the Lord: “Thy bread shall be given thee, and water shall be sure.” “But I have even brought disease upon myself by sin,” says another. “There is a kiss for you, for I am Jehovah-Rophi, the Lord that healeth thee, who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases.” “But I am dreadfully down at the heel,” says another. The Lord gives you also a kiss, and says, “I will lift you up, and provide for all your needs. No good thing will I withhold from them that walk uprightly.” All the promises in this Book belong to every repentant sinner, who returns to God believing in Jesus Christ, his son.”
Child of God, let the world scoff and the consequences of your sin run their course. You have the kisses of God. For every trial, even the self-inflicted ones, can now do you no harm. All things work together for the good of those who love Him, even the haunting effects of our sin with which we now live. Everything in this world will pass away, and we will one day enter the kingdom of our Lord where every tear will be dried, and sadness will be no more. The world may continue to wound, and people may even look at you with disdainful eyes, remember it is not their approval you need, you have the kisses of God.
It would be beneficial to address those sit and ponder their sin, feeling proud that they are not like the great sinners being spoken of here. If you feel that you have not done such a great evil that you should drop you head in shame, may God be merciful and show you your misery. For like the Pharisee, you may fulfill your ritual of prayer in the public places, but remember the Pharisee walked away without forgiveness. It was the tax collector who beat his own breast as if to say, “it is I who should be accursed.” who found his sins washed away. The image of beating his chest symbolizes that he did not see his sin as mental mistakes, but something that flowed from his very soul. For that is what sin is, our very nature mocking the Holiness of God. He cried to God, “have mercy on me a sinner”, and how lovingly the Father kisses Him with forgiveness and acceptance.
There may be still others reading this who started out strong but have begun to be choked out by the cares of this world. Pleasures, promotions, and the search for prestige has taken you captive and have begun to steal your time away from God. May God grant you repentance, for many start strong down the narrow path only to taken away by such lusts never to return. They become like the man despairing in the cage in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, who took the hand of his lusts and could not repent because he loved them so. They overtook him and blinded him of his need for salvation, and he proved to have never been a child of God.
Come to His feet in repentance, for it is our only hope. The wrath of God will be poured out on sinners unless we accept the sacrifice of Christ Jesus. He did what we could not and lived a sinless life, and was crucified in our place. For scripture states “He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities.” The repenting sinner is the only one who can receive a crown of righteousness, and it is not our righteousness but Christ’s.
How can we neglect so great a salvation? Make your election sure. May all those who are children of God, and those who long to be, come to Him today, and be embraced by his love and forgiveness.
Rich would the blessings of this day be, if we were filled with the Holy Spirit. The consequences of this sacred filling of the soul, would be impossible to overestimate. Life, comfort, light, purity, power, peace; and many other precious blessings are inseparable from the Spirit’s gracious presence.
As sacred oil–He anoints the head of the believer, sets him apart to the priesthood of saints, and gives him grace to execute his duties aright.
As the only truly purifying water–He cleanses us from the power of sin and sanctifies us unto holiness, working in us to will and to do of the Lord’s good pleasure.
As the holy light–He reveals the Lord Jesus to us, and guides us in the way of righteousness. Enlightened by His pure celestial ray, we are no longer walk in darkness–but in the light of Scripture truth.
As purifying fire–He both purges us from dross, and sets our consecrated nature ablaze. He is the sacrificial flame by which we are enabled to offer our whole souls as a living sacrifice unto God.
As heavenly dew–He removes our barrenness and nourishes our lives. O that He would drop from above upon us at this early hour! Such morning dew would be a sweet commencement for the day.
As the heavenly Dove, with wings of peaceful love–He broods over the souls of believers; and as a Comforter He dispels the cares and doubts which mar the peace of His beloved ones. He descends upon His chosen people, and bears witness to their sonship by working in them a filial spirit by which they cry Abba, Father!
As the wind–He brings the breath of spiritual life to men. He performs the quickening operations by which the spiritual creation is animated and sustained.
O that we might feel the Spirit’s presence and influence this day and every day!