“Set up waymarks, make guideposts–set your heart toward the highway, even the way which you went–turn again, O virgin of Israel, turn again to these your cities.” –Jeremiah 31:21
To look at the past is often a blessed encouragement for the future. If we are travelers in the way Zionward, we shall have our various waymarks. A conspicuous call, or a signal deliverance, or a gracious manifestation of Christ; a promise applied here, or a marked answer to prayer there; a special blessing under the preached word; a soft and unexpected assurance of an interest in the blood of the Lamb; a breaking in of divine light when walking in great darkness; a sweet sip of consolation in a season of sorrow and trouble; a calming down of the winds and waves without and within by, “It is I, be not afraid”–such and similar waymarks it is most blessed to be able to set up as evidences that we are in the road.
And if many who really fear God cannot set up these conspicuous waymarks, yet they are not without their testimonies equally sure, if not equally satisfying. The fear of God in a tender conscience, the spirit of grace and of supplications in their breast, their cleaving to the people of God in warm affection, their love for the truth in its purity and power, their earnest desires, their budding hopes, their anxious fears, their honesty and simplicity making them jealous over themselves lest they be deceived or deluded, their separation from the world, their humility, meekness, quietness, and general consistency often putting to shame louder profession and higher pretensions–these and similar evidences mark many as children of God who cannot read their title clear to such a privilege and such a blessing.
But whether the waymarks be high or low, shining in the sun or obscure in the dawn, the virgin of Israel is still bidden to “set them up,” and to “set also her heart toward the highway, even the way by which she came.”
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. – John 6:37
The words of John 6:37 reveal the purpose of the Father in giving his elect Jesus Christ. The Father’s purpose was that they might come to him and be saved. This, says the Son, shall indeed be done. Sin, Satan, the flesh, or the world shall never hinder their coming to Christ. The Lord Jesus positively determined to perform such a sufficiency of grace, that it will effectually perform this promise, and use all of the means necessary to accomplish this purpose. The Father’s end will not be frustrated (John 6:39). By coming, we understand it to be the coming of the mind to him, and the moving of the heart towards him. It is a coming with an absolute desire to be justified and saved. There needs to be the sense of a lost condition to move him to come. This made 3000 come; it made the jailor come; and indeed makes all others come effectually. Death is before them and they see it and feel it, and it feeds upon them, and eat them quite up if they do not come to Jesus Christ. They come of necessity, being forced into by the sense they have of their being utterly and everlasting undone, if they do not find safety in him. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). This coming to Christ is a running to him, a flying to him from the wrath to come. When all refuge fails, and man is made to see that there is nothing left in him but sin, and damnation, unless he flies to Christ for life; then he flies, and not until then. There is a sense of absolute need of Jesus Christ: “Lord save me or I perish!” There is an honest and sincere forsaking of all for him: “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27). He who truly comes must forsake all, cast all behind his back and cling to Christ Alone.
“Thus saith the Lord God; I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them.” -Ezekiel 36:37
Prayer is the forerunner of mercy. Turn to sacred history, and you will find that scarcely ever did a great mercy come to this world unheralded by supplication. You have found this true in your own personal experience. God has given you many an unsolicited favour, but still great prayer has always been the prelude of great mercy with you. When you first found peace through the blood of the cross, you had been praying much, and earnestly interceding with God that He would remove your doubts, and deliver you from your distresses. Your assurance was the result of prayer. When at any time you have had high and rapturous joys, you have been obliged to look upon them as answers to your prayers. When you have had great deliverances out of sore troubles, and mighty helps in great dangers, you have been able to say, “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”
Prayer is always the preface to blessing. It goes before the blessing as the blessing’s shadow. When the sunlight of God’s mercies rises upon our necessities, it casts the shadow of prayer far down upon the plain. Or, to use another illustration, when God piles up a hill of mercies, He Himself shines behind them, and He casts on our spirits the shadow of prayer, so that we may rest certain, if we are much in prayer, our pleadings are the shadows of mercy. Prayer is thus connected with the blessing to show us the value of it. If we had the blessings without asking for them, we should think them common things; but prayer makes our mercies more precious than diamonds. The things we ask for are precious, but we do not realize their preciousness until we have sought for them earnestly.
“Prayer makes the darken’d cloud withdraw;
Prayer climbs the ladder Jacob saw;
Gives exercise to faith and love;
Brings every blessing from above.”
Theodore Roosevelt was coming home from Africa, where he had been hunting big game. When he boarded the ship at an African port they rolled out the red carpet for him. The crowds gathered on the dock and applauded him. When he boarded the ship he was given the finest suite on board. All through the voyage he was the center of interest. Everybody went out of the way to favor the great man… Another man boarded the ship at the same time. He was and old missionary who had given his life away for Christ in Africa. Now his wife was dead, his children were gone, he himself was old and worn out, going back to America. But no one noticed him… No one applauded him. He was just a lonely old man.
When the ship docked at San Francisco a great crowed greeted Mr. Roosevelt. They applauded him. When he walked out upon the deck the bells rang, the whistles blew, and again they rolled out the red carpet and he landed amid pomp and glory… But no one was there to meet the old missionary—no one noticed him. He went to a small hotel to spend the night. That night he knelt by the side of his bed and prayed, “Lord, I am not complaining, but I just don’t understand. I gave my life for You in Africa, but it seems that no one cares. There was no one to greet me, no one to encourage me when I came home. Lord, I don’t understand.” And then it seemed that the Lord reached down from heaven and laid His hand on the old man’s shoulder and said, “Missionary, you are not home yet.”
1Co 2:9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
-W. Hershel Ford, from the Simple Sermons series