This morning I had the privilege of preaching at Bethel Grace Baptist Church. The sermon is one that was heavy, but I pray, in the end, lifts you up. We serve a sovereign God, and any suffering you experience in this life will not be wasted. Often, it is in that valley that you hear the Lord speaking tenderly to you.
The video is of the entire church service, but the sermon begins around the 40 min mark. Click to the link below to watch on YouTube.
Wandering again! And has He not left me to perish? Stumbling and straying on the dark mountains, away from the Shepherd’s eye and the Shepherd’s fold, shall He not leave the erring wanderer to the fruit of his own ways, and his truant heart to go hopelessly onward in its career of guilty estrangement? “My thoughts,” says God, “are not as your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways.” Man would say, “Go, perish! ungrateful apostate!” God says, “Return, O backsliding children!” The Shepherd will not, cannot allow those sheep to perish which He has purchased with His own blood! How wondrous His forbearance towards it!—tracking its guilty steps, and ceasing not the pursuit until He lays the wanderer on His shoulders, and returns with it to His fold rejoicing! My soul! why increase by farther departures your own distance from the fold?—why lengthen the dreary road your gracious Shepherd has to traverse in bringing you back? Do not delay your return! Do not provoke His patience any longer! Do not venture farther on forbidden ground! He waits with outstretched arms to welcome you once more to His bosom. Be humble for the past, trust Him for the future. Think of your former backslidings, and tremble—think of His patience, and be filled with holy gratitude; think of His promised grace, “and take courage.”
Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards. Hosea 2:14-15
“Therefore” has a strangely beautiful connection in this verse. God’s people had been grievously backsliding. He had been loading them with mercies; they had been guiltily disowning His hand. They had taken the gifts and spurned the Giver. “She did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold.” No, more, she had shamelessly gone after her lovers—she had deliberately preferred the ways of sin to the ways of God. What will His thoughts be towards this treacherous one? Can they be anything else but those of merited retribution—casting her out, and casting her off forever?
We expect when we hear the concluding word, “therefore,” that it is the awful summing up of His controversy—the turning of the Judge to pronounce righteous sentence. We listen, but lo! utterances of love are the exponents of ‘the thoughts of God.’ “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards.”
It is the way He deals with His people still. They often forget Him in the glare and glitter of prosperity. He hushes the din of the world—takes them out into the solitudes of trial—and there—while abased, humbled, chastened—He unburdens in their ear His thoughts of love, forgiveness, and “comfort.” Oh, what infinite tenderness characterizes the dealings of this Heavenly Chastener! How slow to abandon those who have abandoned Him! Every means and instrumentality is employed rather than leave them to the bitter fruits of their own guilty estrangement.
The kindest human thoughts towards an offender are harshness and severity compared with His. What were the thoughts—the deeds—of the watchmen in the Canticles towards the Bride, as she wandered disconsolate in search of her heavenly Bridegroom—and that, too, in consequence of her own unwatchfulness and sloth? They tore off her veil. They smote her—reviled her—loaded her with reproach. But when she found her lost Lord, though she had kept Him standing amid the cold dews of night—He smites her not—He upbraids her not—no angry syllable escapes His lips. He brings her into the wilderness, and speaks comfortably unto her—and the next picture in the inspired allegory, is the restored one coming up from that wilderness “leaning on her Beloved.”
Reader! is God dealing with you by affliction? Has He blighted your earthly hopes—”caused your mirth to cease,”—”destroyed your vines and fig-trees,” and made all around you a desert? Think what it would have been, had He allowed you to go on in your course of guilty estrangement—your truant heart plunging deeper and deeper in its career of sin! Is it not mercy in Him that He has dimmed that false and deceptive glitter of earth? You would not listen to His voice in prosperity. You took the ten thousand precious gifts of His bestowing—but there was no breathing of gratitude to the Infinite Bestower. You sat, it may be—sullen, peevish, proud, ungrateful, at the very moment when His horn of plenty was being emptied in your lap.
He has brought you into “the wilderness.” As Jesus did with His disciples of old when He would nerve them for coming trial, He has taken you to “a high mountain alone,”—”a solitary place”—apart from the world. He has there humbled you and proved you. He may have touched you to the quick—touched you in your tenderest point—severed hallowed companionships—leveled in the dust clay idols—but it was all His doing. “Behold, I will allure”—”I will bring into the wilderness”—”I will comfort.” He leads us into the wilderness, and He leads us up, and He leads us through.
As He gives us our comforts—our “oil and wine,” our “wool and flax,” our “vines and our fig-trees”—so when He sees fit does He take them away. Whatever be the voices He may be now addressing to me, be it mine to recognize in them the thoughts and utterances of unalterable love, and to say—
I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying, for He speaks peace to His people, His faithful ones. Psalm 85:8