“I will give you the treasures of darkness.” Isaiah 45:3
Is not this a strange expression? “Treasures of darkness!” How can there be darkness in the City of Salvation of which the Lord the Lamb is the eternal light? The expression does not mean that the treasures themselves are darkness, but that they were hidden in darkness until they were brought to light. The treasures of Belshazzar, like the Bank bullion, were buried in darkness until they were broken up and given to Cyrus.
It is so in a spiritual sense. Are there not treasures in the Lord Jesus? Oh! what treasures of grace in his glorious Person! What treasures of pardon in his precious blood! What treasures of righteousness in his perfect obedience! What treasures of salvation in all that he is and has as the great High Priest over the house of God! Yet, all these treasures are “treasures of darkness,” so far as they are hidden from our eyes and hearts, until we are brought by his special power into the City of Salvation. Then these treasures are not only brought to light, revealed, and made known, but the soul is at once put into possession of them. They are not only seen, as the Bank of England clerk sees notes and sovereigns, but are by a special deed of gift from the Court of Heaven made over to him who by faith in the Lord Jesus receives him into his heart. No one has the least conception of the treasures of grace that are in the Lord Jesus until he is brought out of darkness into God’s marvelous light, and knows him and the power of his resurrection by the sweet manifestations of his presence and love.
But the word “treasures” signifies not only something laid up and hidden from general view, but, being in the plural number, expresses an infinite, incalculable amount–an amount which can never be expended, but suffices, and suffices, and suffices again for all needs and for all believing comers. When we get a view by faith of the Person and work of the Lord Jesus and see the everflowing and overflowing fullness of his grace, and how it superabounds over all the aboundings of sin, it may well fill our minds with holy wonder and admiration. When we get a glimpse of the virtue and efficacy of his atoning blood, that precious blood which “cleanses from all sin,” and that divine righteousness which is “unto all and upon all those who believe,” what treasures of mercy, pardon, and peace are seen laid up in him! To see this by the eye of faith, and enter into its beauty and blessedness, is indeed to comprehend with all saints the length, and breadth, and depth, and height, and to know something of the love of Christ which passes knowledge. The sun will cease to give his light, and the earth to yield her increase; but these treasures will still be unexhausted, for they are in themselves infinite and inexhaustible.
This Saturday, February 9, I lost a friend to a motorcycle accident. I met Henry just over 16 years ago working in admissions at Trinity Law School. He came to talk to me because he was interested in attending law school. The day I met him he walked in with the same exuberant smile that you see in the picture above, and his countenance never changed in all the years I knew him. Anyone who knew him can attest that Henry was glad to see everyone who crossed his path, and he was an encouragement to me whenever we spent time together.
When it comes to memories of Henry, there are too many to mention so I will only tell you of one here. One of my favorite recollections is when Henry, myself, and our good friend Ryan Theule represented the law school at a three-day music festival in Monterey CA called Spirit West Coast. The best part was that we decided, instead of getting a hotel, to sleep in a tent at a campground for three nights. Henry was exuberant in all aspects of life and this aspect carried over to the noises he made while sleeping. Ryan and I did not get an hour sleep that night because Henry sawed enough logs to devastate an entire forest. As we began stirring in the morning, standing in the cleared land that was now our campground, a couple neighbor campers came by to tell us that they too could not sleep thanks to Henry. Why would I tell you this? Because Henry’s response to all this is a perfect picture of who he was. Henry was slightly embarrassed, apologetic, and yet tickled pink at the entire scenario. His grin went ear to ear each time we brought it up as if he saw it as some kind of accomplishment. His thumbs would go up, his head would begin to nod slightly, and he would let out a slow and satisfied “YYYYEEEAAAAHHHH!”
One of the things Henry and I used to do when he worked with me full-time, is we would go to the used theology bookstore on lunch to find treasures. There are many things I could tell you about Henry, but there is one thing I can not leave out because it was the basis of so many of our conversations, and that was his love for the theological writings of the Puritans. I can still picture the day he returned, arms full, with all eight volumes of John Owen’s commentary on Hebrews. Henry was glowing.
What was it he loved so much about the Puritans? I believe it was their ability to speak to his spiritual condition. Like every Christian, Henry was a sinner saved by grace. The Lord called him out of a background of drugs, and other sinful choices. He knew what he deserved for his iniquities, and he knew, thanks to Jesus, he would not have to face that recompense. This is what bonded Henry and me. We also knew that even though we have been justified by the blood of Jesus, we were still fighting a daily battle with indwelling sin, and this is where the Puritans, the physicians of the soul, had their most profound effect on us.
Often, the Christian life is portrayed as one of constant victory, “if you have enough faith,” but this is not what is presented in scripture. Being a believer in a fallen world is one fraught with difficulties and disappointments, and that is on top of the daily battle with our own sinfulness. The Puritans understood this and this is why I believe they resonated with Henry so much. The joy that flowed from Henry was not contrived, it was real and it was deep, but this did not mean that Henry did not feel the weight of the world on a daily basis. Like the Puritans, he desired to grow into a holiness that he did not yet entirely possess in practice, but he did not place his hope in himself, or his ability to conform himself into the image Christ. He had laid that at the feet of Jesus.
Upon coming to Christ, Henry’s sins were forgiven. Any regrets he may have had from his past were wiped away, and the justice that those sins deserved, Jesus bore on the cross in his place. Henry was counted righteous in Christ because his sins were imputed to Jesus, and Christ’s righteousness was counted as his. This is justification. From there, the Lord begins the sanctification process. This is where we begin to actually become more holy in our daily living. The desire to be conformed to the image of Christ was something Henry pursued; though, like every other Christian, he did not pursue it perfectly. As Henry strove to grow in godliness, he kept his confidence in Jesus who promised to “complete the work he started in him.” (Phillipians. 1:6). It is with this foundation that any other obstacle can be endured, and this is what kept Henry smiling.
Henry has fought the good fight, he has finished his race (2 Tim. 4:7-8). He lived a life of hope and heartbreak, of discouragement and delight. In the midst of all of his successes and failures, the Lord never let go of his child. The last enemy that Henry had to face was death, and death will be the last enemy to be destroyed (1. Cor. 15:26). Jesus was not only delivered over to death for Henry and all who will place their trust in Him, but He rose for our justification (Romans 4:25). Anyone who believes in the name of the Son of God may know that they have eternal life (1 John 5:13), and Henry has taken hold of the eternal life to which he was called (1 Tim. 6:12).
I can remember the day I was married to my wife, Julie. I am the youngest of five and all my siblings had already been wed. As I stood there, I remember thinking, “this is actually happening to me. It is my turn to do what so many have already done.” Beforehand, it always seemed so far in the future, but there I was in the midst of it. The same could be said for so many other events in our lives, and the same could be said about the day we will die. Henry never would have thought that it would come so soon, but it was his time, and it will be our time soon enough. To paraphrase John Donne, there is a sense we need not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. Every death is a reminder that our time is coming.
Are you ready? Have you placed your faith in the atoning work of the only mediator between God and man; Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5)? Are you living for the things that matter? As Henry found himself on his death bed, I am sure he would have told us, that so many of the anxieties he had held while living were driven by the pursuit of things that hold no ultimate value. I can say this because of my many conversations with him, and my own experience chasing the things of the world. Knowing Henry, if he could tell us anything now, he would tell us to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Any pursuit that does not have this as its ultimate aim is chasing the wind.”
I believe with all my heart that right now Henry is in the presence of Jesus. Henry has been conformed to the image of Christ now that he has seen Him face to face, and his hunger and thirst after holiness have been filled. I imagine soon, he will be sitting down with John Owen to discuss and the glory of Jesus. For those who believe, we will see Henry again, and at that moment his thumbs will go up, his head will begin to nod slightly, and he will let out a slow and satisfied “YYYEEEEAAAAAHHH!
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
The movie Bohemian Rhapsody has hit the theaters to chronicle the life of Freddie Mercury and his untimely death to aids. To reflect on such a life as a believer is sobering. To reflect on the life and death of anyone would do the same, but there seems to be something more significant when we think about the death of someone like Freddie Mercury. To imagine that rock royalty, Queen, will one day stand before the King of kings, should cause us all to pause and reflect on our lives for a moment.
Scripture tells us that it is appointed once for a man to die, then the judgment (Heb. 9:27). All men, even those who seemed to have the world by the tail for a time, are subjected to it. What is more troubling for the Christian who considers such an event, is to see how many people are still clamoring to have what Freddie had at the height of his fame, knowing that they fail to see how quickly these kingdoms will come crashing down.
There is no doubt that the pursuit of fame has engulfed many to the point that it seems to have consumed them. Knowing this, it should not surprise us when we read in scripture that “the wicked are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest” (Isa 57:20). Even if we end up with all that we dreamed of in this world, unless Christ is our treasure, we will be unable to find the rest that seems to be eluding us (Matt. 16:26). In fact, we often impale ourselves with many troubles as we continue the pursuit (1 Tim 6:10).
There is a restlessness in the human heart as Augustine pointed out when he said, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.” This restlessness comes from the fact that there is a knowledge of God written on our hearts, and in our sinfulness, we want nothing to do with it (Rom. 1:18-20). It is from this point that our pursuits for peace take us everywhere except the one place we would be able to find it.
In our sinfulness we reject God, knowing that we have violated his ways (Rom 1:32), and to cover up that knowledge, we tend to work even harder to find things that can distract us from that truth. In it, we tend to go further and further down a path of vanity, for all is vanity apart from Christ (Ecc. 1:2).
From here we create our own standards of what we think a virtuous person ought to be, but even by our own standards, we fail to measure up. Only by deceiving ourselves are we able maintain any level of self-approval. Often during these pursuits, we find ourselves engaging in all kinds of aberrant behavior merely trying to measure up to our own standards and fill our emptiness. In it, we cling to our own righteousness to appease the God we know is there and to assuage the guilt we know is ours. We, even in our suppression of the truth, will create a God to our own liking and will try to appease it (Rom 1:23), and these little gods are tyrants without mercy. On top of that, the God of scripture tells us that all our righteousness is as filthy rags, and he wants nothing to do with it (Isa. 64:6). But, praise God, He then goes on to tell us of the remedy that he has offered in Christ Jesus, for all of us have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God (Rom. 3:23). God the Father sent his son to die upon the cross to bear the punishment for all who will believe in Him (John 3:16) to bring us into a right relationship with Him and give us the peace we are seeking.
As was mentioned before, it is appointed once for a man to die then the judgment. The only way anyone will be able to stand in the judgment is if they are in Christ because he is the only one who has lived a truly righteous life and paid the penalty for our sins (Acts 4:12), and if we are not in Christ, we will have to pay our own penalty for sins. This truth applies to all men and women, whether rich or poor, famous or unknown, loved by the world or not.
To paraphrase John Donne, when we hear that someone has died and we wonder for whom the bell tolls, there is a sense in which it will always be tolling for us. It is a constant reminder of our own frailty, telling us to be cognizant of our own end, and to ponder what awaits us afterward, and whether or not we are living life the way it should be lived; to the glory of God (Psalm 39:4). In it, you will find the fulfillment, rest, and, most importantly, the forgiveness of sins, you so desperately need. It was for this reason Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28).
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.
Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. – Matthew 19:24
How can God get camels through a needle’s eye, and what exactly is the difficulty to which this metaphor is referring? The context of this passage speaks volumes about the depravity of man and the grace of God. Jesus is talking privately to His disciples about the rich young ruler who walked away because his love for worldly treasures was greater than his love for the things of God. Jesus proceeds by stating that it is easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Matthew Henry makes some interesting observations when he says, “The way to heaven is fitly compared to the needle’s eye, which is hard to hit and hard to get through. Secondly, a rich man is fitly compared to a camel, a beast of burden, for he has riches, as the camel has his load.”
Jesus tells us that the road to heaven is difficult by calling it narrow, and He reiterates it by relating it to the eye of a needle, but we must be careful what we call difficult, because we know we cannot work our way to heaven and our striving cannot add anything to our salvation. So what is the difficulty that is being revealed here? The problem stems from our fallen nature. Our nature at birth is at enmity with God and loves the world. We know that “if any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 Jn. 2:15).” We also know if the love of the Father is in a person, then He has faith and therefore is saved. The difficulty is changing from a person who loves the world to one who loves the Father.
The rich man has twice the difficulty because he not only has to contend with his fallen nature but, like the camel, has heaped upon his back the burden of his riches, which his fallen nature clings to with iron clad shackles. The poor do not escape easily either because the world is full of charms, which our nature is bound to, but with wealth, we have greater means to pursue them.
The disciples are astonished at this teaching and respond with a serious question, “then who can be saved?” Jesus’ response is important because it is the key to salvation. He states, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” The difficulty of turning away from the world and breaking the fetters that bind us cannot be done by anything we do. In fact, because we are attached to the world with such a strong love for it, we do not desire to alter our affections away from it. The love of the world is in us and will never be removed without divine intervention, but, praise God, all things are possible with Him. He is the one who breaks the chains and places in us a love for the Father, and He never fails. Even if this work is being done in a rich man’s life, the love of the world, even with his passion for riches, will be conquered by the work of grace.
Salvation is the gift of God; no man in his fallen nature will ever turn his own heart to faith without God working it in Him. If we find ourselves desiring God over the riches of this world, praise Him because we could have never come to that point had God not wrought it in us. Riches, though not evil in themselves, are bindings that hold many out of the kingdom of God. May God do for us what is impossible for us to do ourselves.
Lord, You are marvelously powerful, and Your power moves in ways unseen to most of us. No grandiose displays of might are needed to move the hearts of men, though they are all around us in nature. It took a hidden call to our hearts.
We had built fortresses of wisdom to protect ourselves from You, but you destroy the wisdom of the wise and the discernment of the discerning (1 Cor. 1:19), And You did it through the message of the cross. A word that is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:18).
We know, from your word, that the natural man does not accept this message because it is spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14). We understand that our sin had us bound so that we were unable to receive your truth without you first breaking the bonds of our corrupt natures, false wisdom, and arguments.
We praise You, Lord, for Your unseen power that set us free and gave us new birth. As we consider our calling, that miraculous work of grace in our hearts, we know it is because You chose us (1 Cor. 1:26-27), and not because of any good in us. It was entirely of Your mercy and grace.
We still live in a world that considers your truth foolish. Make us willing to bear the reproach of the world by taking up our cross daily by conforming us to Your image. For, as we spread the good news of the gospel, we know You will be secretly, and mightily, calling others to Yourself as well.
With grateful hearts, we praise You for Your wonderful work of power that set us free from the slavery of our own sinful natures. You are gloriously merciful.
Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants, and shalt set it with strange slips: In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish: but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow. – Isaiah 17:10-11
The world in which we live is full of distractions that pull us away from our Savior. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life can easily ensnare us causing us to place our focus somewhere other than our Lord. The problem lies in the fact that when we take our eyes off Christ and put them on the things of this world, we find that all or labor and work is in vain.
There are several interesting things pointed out to us in this passage. This first one is that when we forget the God of our salvation and are not mindful of the rock of our strength, what we begin to focus on will, in fact, be pleasant. As this passage indicates, we “plant pleasant plants,” Turning our attention away from our God will always seem pleasant at first. We find something that brings us joy and pleasure, or at least we hope it will bring us joy and pleasure, and we begin to put our time and effort in that direction. We must realize, however, that the slips we plant are strange. Slips in this context were plant cuttings that would be put into the ground to bring forth growth. When the passage calls them strange, it carries with it the idea that they are foreign. Foreign to what God would have us be growing in the soil of our lives.
The passage goes on to say that we shall “make” the plant grow, and the seed to flourish. This shows us that hard work and effort go into tending these plants. Crops that are planted in areas where the climate and soil are not fit for them, will not flourish without special care, and so we begin to place our efforts on growing this crop. As the passage seems to indicate, we may even see some success. Our diligence with these pleasant plants will spring forth a harvest, which may even bring us some temporary satisfaction, but the passage goes on to warn us that it will not last. In the day of grief and of desperate sorrow it will be a heap, offering us nothing of real value.
What is the aim of your life? Where are your hope and strength found? Do you spend all your time taking care of worldly concerns? Are you always focusing on worldly success and the pleasures it can bring, without remembering the God of your salvation?
If so, we have perverted our way, and we are living for earthly things which will end up being a heap that will be destroyed when trouble comes, and trouble will eventually come. Without doing all things for the glory of God, our pleasant plants will leave us empty, and we will cry out “vanity of vanities” when it is all said and done.
Let us serve the living God like those who are willing to suffer affliction with the people of God if necessary, and be done with the passing pleasures of sin (Heb. 11:25). When we do this, we exchange a mirage for a fountain flowing with living water, because in the rock of our strength, we will never be let down in the time of trouble. For nothing we do in Christ will be in vain.
See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord. – Colossians 4:7
“Fulfill the Ministry.” Paul initially said this to Archippus, but was this a warning or encouragement? Since we do not know much about him, it is hard to tell. Some have suggested that Archippus was the first pastor to the Laodicean’s. He may have been negligent in his duties, to which Paul would have been admonishing him by saying, “Get to work and do what you are supposed to do.” He also may have been faithful to his call but in a difficult place. Paul may have been encouraging him by saying, “press on in your good work, the Lord sees and will reward.”
Regardless as to whether this was a warning or an encouragement, these words apply to every believer. God has called us all to bring Him glory with our lives. This command applies to whatever vocation He has called us, as we live as ambassadors for Him in this fallen world. We are to work heartily as unto the Lord. Never go back to working for riches, popularity, fame, or even personal peace. Fulfill what He has called you to do for the Kingdom of God. Bring Him glory in all of it.
Maybe the Lord is calling you to a particular ministry that you have been resisting. Fulfill the ministry. Perhaps you have been doing what you have been called to do, but the things of the world are starting to catch your eye. Fulfill the ministry. Perhaps the Lord called you to a specific ministry, and you have been diligent in doing it, but now you are growing weary in well doing. Fulfill the ministry.
There is so much more for us than we can see. Never forget that you have been raised with Christ, your life is hidden in Christ, and glory will be experienced at His return. Work heartily as unto the Lord. Remember, we do not live to please men. Christ is preeminent, not them. Live for His glory. Do it heartily, not grudgingly. Know why it is important and work hard to get it done. Whatever you do, redeem the time for the days are evil. Work should be work as unto the Lord, recreation should be recreation unto the Lord, and rest should be rest unto the Lord.
Wherever you may be today, may the Lord use this short devotion to encourage you to press on. May it remind you that this world is fleeting and our time is short. May it remind you to make sure this day is dedicated to your Savior, for tomorrow is promised to no one. Most importantly remember that He is with you and will give you the strength you need to fulfill the ministry.