The Cities of Refuge as a Picture of Jesus

This morning I had the privilege of preaching at First Artesia Christian Reformed Church. We took some time to look at the Cities of Refuge found in the Old Testament and the amazing picture of Jesus they paint for us.

May you be encouraged.

D. Eaton

Jesus, My Refiner

“He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.”Mal. 3:3

My soul! your Refiner and Purifier is Jesus. Jesus shapes all your trials; Jesus sends all your afflictions; Jesus mingles all your sorrows; Jesus shapes and balances all the clouds of your pilgrimage; Jesus prepares and heats the furnace that refines you as silver and purifies you as gold. Then, O my soul, tremble not at the knife that wounds you, at the flame that scorches you, at the cloud that shades you, at the billows that surge above you–Jesus is in it all, and you are as safe as though you had reached the blissful climate where the vine needs no pruning, and the ore no purifying, where the sky is never darkened, and upon whose golden sands no storms of adversity ever blow or waves of sorrow ever break.

And, O my soul, what deep need is there for this refining and purifying of your Lord. What inward corruption, what carnality, what worldliness, what self-seeking, what creature idolatry, what God-dishonoring unbelief, imperatively demand the searching, burning, purifying fires of Christ’s furnace! And this is the end of all–to take away your sin, and to make you a partaker of the Divine holiness.

And mark the Refiner’s position. “He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” It would be fatal to his purpose did the smelter and refiner leave his post while the liquid mass was fusing and seething in the furnace. But there he patiently sits, watching and tempering the flame, and removing the refuse and the dross as it floats upon the surface of the molten ore. So Christ sits as a Refiner; and with an eye that never slumbers, and with a patience that never wearies, and with a love that never chills, and with a faithfulness that never falters, watches and controls the process that purifies our hearts, burnishes our graces, sanctifies our nature, and impresses more vividly His own image of loveliness upon our soul. If He places you in the fire, He will bring you through the fire, “that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”

Sweet and soothing is the truth that the believer is not alone in the fire. The Refiner is with us as with the three children passing through the burning furnace kindled by the king. The Lord will have us polished stones; and as some believers are more rusty and some more alloyed than others, they need a rougher file and a hotter furnace. This may account for the great severity of trial through which some of the Lord’s precious jewels are called to pass. Not less dear to His heart are they for this; it is said God had one Son without corruption, but no son without correction; for “though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.” Look up, my soul, your Portion is your Refiner. Be still, humble, submissive. The knife is in a Father’s hand, the flame is under a Savior’s control.

-Octavius Winslow

When God Disappoints

Men are so ignorant of their own hearts that they are incapable of determining what is best for them. Even regenerate men are but partially sanctified and enlightened. But God searches the heart. He understands our whole case. He knows what is most for our good. He sees our strong corruptions and sad deficiencies. When, in mercy to His child, He comes to heal his spiritual maladies, He does not take counsel with human reasoning or desires. It is right, it is best that He should act according to the wisdom which is infallible. He employs the requisite remedies. Often they are distasteful to flesh and blood. Sometimes they are frightful to contemplate, and terrible to endure.

Then man, in his ignorance, too often says, “If God loved me—He would not give me so bitter a cup to drink!” But this is man’s folly. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Shall human weakness control divine power? Shall finite knowledge prescribe to omniscience? It is the height of wickedness for a worm of the dust—to revise the decisions, or pre-judge the justice of the Almighty. We would expect that God would deal with us in an incomprehensible way—if we did but remember how base, sordid, and narrow are our views and plans; and how holy, glorious, and eternal are His purposes and designs.

We are quite prone to magnify both the good and evil things of time—to the disparagement of those of eternity. But when God thwarts, afflicts, and mortifies us—He makes us look at the things which are unseen and eternal. If He racks this body with pain—it is that we may think of our house, not made with hands, eternal, and in the heavens. The shaking of this clay tabernacle forces upon us the recollection that this present world is not our rest—and that we ought to be seeking a heavenly country. If the godliest man on earth had his own way without divine guidance—he would soon be in full march towards destruction!

How kind is God in wisely and mercifully deciding so many things for us! God very mercifully marks out our course for us. God is governor. We are servants. To us belong obedience, submission, acquiescence. It is not ours . . .
to guide,
to decide what is best,
to rule the world,
to shape the course of events.

“But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say
to him who formed it—Why did you make me like this?”
– Romans 9:20

-William S. Plummer

7 Lessons When Prayer Seems Unanswered

Sovereign Lord, what I most desired you have denied, yet I praise you! On what account, I know not, yet I praise you. You have done it; that silences me. Your will makes it indisputable, and renders it my indispensable duty to your wise determinations. Hitherto I have had no complaint on the conduct of providence; nor shall I complain until all the mazes are explained. Do, then, all your counsel, though all my counsels should come to nothing. Can a person expect favors from God–who will not wait for God’s way and time?

But what does it matter how the affairs of a present world go, if the interests of the next world are secured? The weather-vane is whirled about with every blast, but the iron spire is still at rest, because it cannot be displaced. So, what does it matter though the outward man decays–if the inner man grows? What does it matter though the temporal condition be perplexed–if the conscience is possessed of spiritual peace? I praise you that you interpose your providence, even in disappointing my dearest plans; and do not give me up to the blind desires of my own heart, and to wander at random in counsels of mine own. I can resolve the present case into nothing but your will; yet I rejoice more to resign to your will, and to be submissive to your disposal, than to have my will in every point performed. This is the only way in my private capacity that I can glorify you.

If all things went as I would have them, I could not positively learn the care of God. But when providence, beyond all human probability, twists enterprises out of my hands, and well-resolved designs out of my heart–this clearly shows to me your condescending concern about my lot and life. Thus you take the wise in their own craftiness; for when all my schemes were so well laid, that human policy approved of, and wit itself commended; yet, when you did blow upon them, how did they like rainbows painted on the watery clouds, when thunders break, or boisterous winds attack–scatter into disappointments and pain!

Hence, in the school of providence I am taught some lessons.

  1. Not to look to the appearance of things, but to the power of God, who brings light out of darkness, and calls the things that are not, as though they were.
  2. That from probabilities, impossibilities may spring; while apparent impossibilities dissolve into easy escapes. As for the first, it was very probable that the Egyptians might overtake and put Israel to the sword, yet it became impossible for them to do it. And as for the second it seemed impossible that Israel could escape ruin, when enclosed with insurmountable hills, and swelling seas, and pursued by enraged foes; yet, in what an easy way did they walk to their deliverance!
  3. I am taught to believe, and to give glory to the almighty power of God, when impossibilities throng thick before me.
  4. To see my own finite wisdom to be but folly, that I can neither prevent nor foresee those events which I do not desire.
  5. To hold all my mercies, all my privileges from God, and not from the certainty in which they seem to stand.
  6. Not to think that things are lost, when so they seem to be. When I think I am most sure of some things, they are all on a sudden taken from me; so when lost, they can all of a sudden be restored.
  7. And, lastly, to see the mutable and fickle state of temporal things, and therefore to hold a loose grip on the creature, however dear, however near–and to set my affections on things that are above.

-James Meikle, 1730-1799

The Weapons of Righteousness

The WeaponsWith the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left.– 2 Corinthians 6:7

There are weapons of righteousness for each of our hands. The phrase, “weapons of righteousness,” sometimes translated as, “armor of righteousness,” has been interpreted many ways, from the plausible to the ludicrous. These weapons are often linked to our spiritual armor found in Ephesians 6. Though I do believe there is likely some link to the armor of God, I believe John Calvin was closer to the mark when he linked these weapons to holy conduct and a clear conscience. Understanding it in this way, we can see them as both armor and weapons.

Nothing can hinder us in our work for the Lord more than sin and a troubled conscience. In both of these things, we find ourselves exposed to the attacks of Satan and unable to work to advance the kingdom of God. However, with a righteous life and a clear conscience, we can stand in the midst of adversity and persecution.

The real problem is that in and of ourselves, we have neither. We are guilty and we know it, but in Jesus we find our forgiveness and acceptance in the Beloved. Jesus is the foundation of our armor and weapons of righteousness. None of us have any ability or right to stand in truthful speech and the power of God unless we are in Christ, but with him we can stand with our conscious clear, justified by His blood.

From there we must grow in sanctification. This means we are not only declared righteous, but we also begin to be conformed to His image. If we plan to stand against the prince and the power of the air and the patterns of this world, both justification and sanctification are necessary.

As we grow in the Lord, we become able to work to advance the kingdom of God without any fault being found in our work. We must put aside underhanded ways (2 Cor. 4:2). In this way we can press on in the face of any mistreatment, knowing that we have conducted ourselves according to the word of God.

It is only with these weapons of righteousness that we can stand as servants of God and commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love;  by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. Treated as impostors, and yet true; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything with our hearts wide open (2 Cor. 6:4-11).

16 Lessons on Pursuing Holiness

Not that I have already attained, but in my desire to press on, I recently taught a class called Holiness: Seeking the Savior’s Likeness at Bethel Grace Baptist Church. If you are interested, you can listen to the lessons at the links below. Simply click on the link to play, or right-click to download the mp3.

 

The Storm is a Gift

 

The storm is a gift. This was the thought that was running through my mind as wave after wave crashed upon me. In part because I knew it was true and partly because I hoped it was true. When the skies turned dark they caught me off guard. I found myself lost in confusion as every bit of my weakness was exposed, but that was only a portion of the battle.

As the tempest raged against me from the outside something else started happening on the inside. My flesh rebelled. It had been active all along as I now realize, but it started to let me know that it was upset. As I entered one of the darkest times of my life, my sinfulness began to rear its head in ways I had never imagined. It was showing me its power.

I never really saw myself as someone who longed for and loved the things of the world, but the minute the pleasures were no longer available, a passion in my soul stirred for them.  The fact that they were no longer at my disposal caused a despondency in my spirit that made me feel sick. I thought, “What if all those days of pleasure are gone? I can’t live without them, they are part of what makes me who I am.” The notion that they were no longer mine was more than I could handle.

It was here that I realized the conflict between flesh and Spirit was clashing within me in a battle more fierce than I could ever remember.  The problem is when you already feel you are spinning out of control because of the circumstances in which you find yourself, this type of inner conflict brings your sinfulness to the surface along with reminders of past indiscretions. Once guilt was added to the mix, I was devastated. I had nothing left: everything I thought I was standing on was systematically dislodged from beneath me. I don’t think I could have plummeted any lower.

This, however, was exactly were I needed to be. When the conflict between flesh and Spirit heightens within us, it is more often a sign of spiritual progress than decline. When the Lord sends us troubles that are designed to mold us to His image, the first thing we tend to notice is how far we fall short.  In other words, sanctified affliction seldom seems sanctified because the Lord is drawing the dross to the surface, but never forget, He is drawing it to the surface to wipe it away.

A.W. Tozer once said, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” This may not sit well with many, but it is important to remember that God is more concerned with our spiritual growth than our worldly prosperity, and often He will sacrifice the latter to promote the former.

Even the disciples who had seen Christ perform many miracles finally marveled when it was their boat that was at stake. Ultimately the problem is this, we see Christ’s power to calm the storm as interesting until our boat is at risk, then it is imperative. Our Savior is not looking for people who admire His power from a distance, His children are the ones who know their very lives depend upon Him. Only then are we able to go out and comfort others where we have been comforted. Though everything I thought I was standing on crumbled beneath me, when it had all been destroyed, I found myself standing on the Rock of Christ Jesus. The storm is a gift.

The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts. – Proverbs 17:3

D. Eaton