Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,
says Yahweh of Hosts. Zechariah 4:6
Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors,
That the King of Glory may come in! Who is this King of Glory?
Yahweh of Hosts: He is the King of Glory. Psalm 24:9-10
"I know, O Yahweh, that your judgments are right,
and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me."
This is the Christian's acknowledgment: he is fully satisfied with God's ordering of affairs. This confidence invigorates not only his own soul but encourages the church. Yahweh's dealings are called his judgments--not as having judicial curses, but as the acts of his justice in the chastening of sin and in the administration of their measure and application. It is true that the Psalmist acknowledges Yahweh's general judgment. Yet it is in regard to himself that he acknowledges Yahweh's particular faithfulness. And this he knew, not from the dictates of the flesh (which give the exact opposite verdict), but from the testimony of the word and the witness of his own experience. It could not be doubted much less denied, "I know, O Yahweh, that your rules of proceeding are agreeable to your perfect justice and wisdom. I am equally satisfied that the afflictions you have laid upon me from time to time are only to fulfill your gracious and faithful promise of making me eternally happy in yourself." How blessed is the fruit of affliction when we can see God in it--that he is of great compassion and of tender mercy, that his thoughts toward us are thoughts of peace and not of evil! It is the patience and faith of the saints that will teach this difficult but most comforting lesson in deciphering the mysteries of God's providence.
Under the severest chastisement the child of God must acknowledge justice. Our gracious reward is always more, and our punishment always less, than our iniquities deserve. "Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?" Indeed, he is in trouble, but not in hell. If he complains, then let it be due to no one but himself and his own wayward choice. "I know, O Lord, that your judgments are right," and who can doubt the wisdom? Who would charge the surgeon with cruelty in cutting out the proud flesh that was bringing death upon the man? Who would not acknowledge the right judgment of his piercing work? So when the Lord's painful work separates us from our sin, weans us from the world, and brings us nearer to himself, what remains for us but thankfully to acknowledge his righteousness and truth? Unbelief is put to rebuke; and if we have indulged the suspicion that God has forgotten to be gracious, then we must confess, "This is our infirmity" (Ps. 77:7-10).
The assurance of the Lord's perfect justice, wisdom, and intimate knowledge of our respective cases leads us to yield to his ordering of affairs in dutiful silence. Thus Aaron, under his most grievous domestic calamity, "held his peace." Job, under a similar dispensation, was enabled to say, "Yahweh gave, and Yahweh has taken away. Blessed be the name of Yahweh." Eli's language in the same trial was, "It is Yahweh. Let him do what seems good to him." David hushed his impatient spirit, saying, "I was mute, I did not open my mouth, because it was you who did it." And when Shimei cursed him, he said, "Let him alone, and let him curse; for Yahweh has ordered him." Hezekiah kissed the rod while it was smiting him to the dust--"The word of Yahweh which you have spoken is good." This is the consistent language of the Lord's people under chastisement--"I know, O Yahweh, that your judgments are right."
The confession of justice may, however, be mere natural conviction. Faith goes further and speaks of faithfulness. David not only acknowledges God's right to deal with him as he saw fit and his wisdom in dealing with him as he actually had done, but God's faithfulness in afflicting--not faithfulness though he afflicted, but in afflicting him; not as if it were simply consistent with his love, but that it was the very fruit of his love! It is not enough for us to justify God. We have abundant cause to praise him! It is not enough to cease from murmuring. We have a stirring display of his faithfulness and love!
Yes, the trials appointed for us are nothing less than the faithful performance of his everlasting promises. And to this cause we may always trace the reason of much that is painful to the flesh, even though it may not be apparent to our eyes. If we determine to take note of its gracious effects in our restoration--instruction, healing of our backslidings, and the continual purging of sins--then we can say, "Is not the faithfulness of God gloriously displayed?" The Philistines could not understand Samson's riddle--how meat could come out of the eater and sweetness out of the strong. In the same way the world can little comprehend the fruitfulness of the Christian's trials--how his gracious Lord can sweeten the bitter waters and make the cross not so much the punishment as the remedy of sin. The Christian, then, finds no inclination and feels no interest in having any change made in the Lord's appointments, distasteful as they may be to the flesh. He readily acknowledges that God's merciful designs could not have been accomplished in any other way. Under such trials many sweet tokens of love are granted, which under circumstances of outward prosperity could not have been received with the same gratitude and delight.
You who are living at ease in the indulgence of what this poor world can afford, how little does the Christian envy your portion! In some future day you will surely be taught by experience to envy his! To the Christian the world's riches today are daily becoming poorer and its pleasures more tasteless. And what will they be and how will they appear when eternity is at hand?! Affliction is the special token of our Father's love. It brings us into conformity to the image of Jesus and prepares us for his service and kingdom. It is the only blessing that the Lord gives without requiring us to ask for it. We receive it, therefore, as promised, not as threatened. When the "peaceable fruits of righteousness," which it brings about in God's time and way, spring up in our hearts, then humbly and gratefully we will acknowledge the righteousness of his judgments and the faithfulness of his corrections.
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