Mighty Hands of God

Morning

“His bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob.”
Genesis 49:24

That strength which God gives to his Josephs is real strength; it is not a boasted valour, a fiction, a thing of which men talk, but which ends in smoke; it is true–divine strength. Why does Joseph stand against temptation? Because God gives him aid. There is nought that we can do without the power of God. All true strength comes from “the mighty God of Jacob.” Notice in what a blessedly familiar way God gives this strength to Joseph–“The arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob.” Thus God is represented as putting his hands on Joseph’s hands, placing his arms on Joseph’s arms. Like as a father teaches his children, so the Lord teaches them that fear him. He puts his arms upon them. Marvellous condescension! God Almighty, Eternal, Omnipotent, stoops from his throne and lays his hand upon the child’s hand, stretching his arm upon the arm of Joseph, that he may be made strong! This strength was also covenant strength, for it is ascribed to “the mighty God of Jacob.” Now, wherever you read of the God of Jacob in the Bible, you should remember the covenant with Jacob. Christians love to think of God’s covenant. All the power, all the grace, all the blessings, all the mercies, all the comforts, all the things we have, flow to us from the well-head, through the covenant. If there were no covenant, then we should fail indeed; for all grace proceeds from it, as light and heat from the sun. No angels ascend or descend, save upon that ladder which Jacob saw, at the top of which stood a covenant God. Christian, it may be that the archers have sorely grieved you, and shot at you, and wounded you, but still your bow abides in strength; be sure, then, to ascribe all the glory to Jacob’s God.

Evening

“The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power.”
Nahum 1:3

Jehovah “is slow to anger.” When mercy cometh into the world she driveth winged steeds; the axles of her chariot-wheels are red hot with speed; but when wrath goeth forth, it toileth on with tardy footsteps, for God taketh no pleasure in the sinner’s death. God’s rod of mercy is ever in his hands outstretched; his sword of justice is in its scabbard, held down by that pierced hand of love which bled for the sins of men. “The Lord is slow to anger,” because he is great in power. He is truly great in power who hath power over himself. When God’s power doth restrain himself, then it is power indeed: the power that binds omnipotence is omnipotence surpassed. A man who has a strong mind can bear to be insulted long, and only resents the wrong when a sense of right demands his action. The weak mind is irritated at a little: the strong mind bears it like a rock which moveth not, though a thousand breakers dash upon it, and cast their pitiful malice in spray upon its summit. God marketh his enemies, and yet he bestirs not himself, but holdeth in his anger. If he were less divine than he is, he would long ere this have sent forth the whole of his thunders, and emptied the magazines of heaven; he would long ere this have blasted the earth with the wondrous fires of its lower regions, and man would have been utterly destroyed; but the greatness of his power brings us mercy. Dear reader, what is your state this evening? Can you by humble faith look to Jesus, and say, “My substitute, thou art my rock, my trust”? Then, beloved, be not afraid of God’s power; for by faith you have fled to Christ for refuge, the power of God need no more terrify you, than the shield and sword of the warrior need terrify those whom he loves. Rather rejoice that he who is “great in power” is your Father and Friend.

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A man of sorrows

Morning

Habakkuk 3 6

“He was heard in that he feared.”
Hebrews 5:7

Did this fear arise from the infernal suggestion that he was utterly forsaken. There may be sterner trials than this, but surely it is one of the worst to be utterly forsaken? “See,” said Satan, “thou hast a friend nowhere! Thy Father hath shut up the bowels of his compassion against thee. Not an angel in his courts will stretch out his hand to help thee. All heaven is alienated from thee; thou art left alone. See the companions with whom thou hast taken sweet counsel, what are they worth? Son of Mary, see there thy brother James, see there thy loved disciple John, and thy bold apostle Peter, how the cowards sleep when thou art in thy sufferings! Lo! Thou hast no friend left in heaven or earth. All hell is against thee. I have stirred up mine infernal den. I have sent my missives throughout all regions summoning every prince of darkness to set upon thee this night, and we will spare no arrows, we will use all our infernal might to overwhelm thee: and what wilt thou do, thou solitary one?” It may be, this was the temptation; we think it was, because the appearance of an angel unto him strengthening him removed that fear. He was heard in that he feared; he was no more alone, but heaven was with him. It may be that this is the reason of his coming three times to his disciples–as Hart puts it–

“Backwards and forwards thrice he ran,

As if he sought some help from man.”

He would see for himself whether it were really true that all men had forsaken him; he found them all asleep; but perhaps he gained some faint comfort from the thought that they were sleeping, not from treachery, but from sorrow, the spirit indeed was willing, but the flesh was weak. At any rate, he was heard in that he feared. Jesus was heard in his deepest woe; my soul, thou shalt be heard also.

Evening

“Behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.”
Matthew 27:51

“In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit.”
Luke 10:21

The Saviour was “a man of sorrows,” but every thoughtful mind has discovered the fact that down deep in his innermost soul he carried an inexhaustible treasury of refined and heavenly joy. Of all the human race, there was never a man who had a deeper, purer, or more abiding peace than our Lord Jesus Christ. “He was anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows.” His vast benevolence must, from the very nature of things, have afforded him the deepest possible delight, for benevolence is joy. There were a few remarkable seasons when this joy manifested itself. “At that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth.” Christ had his songs, though it was night with him; though his face was marred, and his countenance had lost the lustre of earthly happiness, yet sometimes it was lit up with a matchless splendour of unparalleled satisfaction, as he thought upon the recompense of the reward, and in the midst of the congregation sang his praise unto God. In this, the Lord Jesus is a blessed picture of his church on earth. At this hour the church expects to walk in sympathy with her Lord along a thorny road; through much tribulation she is forcing her way to the crown. To bear the cross is her office, and to be scorned and counted an alien by her mother’s children is her lot; and yet the church has a deep well of joy, of which none can drink but her own children. There are stores of wine, and oil, and corn, hidden in the midst of our Jerusalem, upon which the saints of God are evermore sustained and nurtured; and sometimes, as in our Saviour’s case, we have our seasons of intense delight, for “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of our God.” Exiles though we be, we rejoice in our King; yea, in him we exceedingly rejoice, while in his name we set up our banners.

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Jesus is always near!

Morning

“I will never leave thee.”
Hebrews 13:5

No promise is of private interpretation. Whatever God has said to anyone saint, he has said to all. When he opens a well for one, it is that all may drink. When he openeth a granary-door to give out food, there may be someone starving man who is the occasion of its being opened, but all hungry saints may come and feed too. Whether he gave the word to Abraham or to Moses, matters not, O believer; he has given it to thee as one of the covenanted seed. There is not a high blessing too lofty for thee, nor a wide mercy too extensive for thee. Lift up now thine eyes to the north and to the south, to the east and to the west, for all this is thine. Climb to Pisgah’s top, and view the utmost limit of the divine promise, for the land is all thine own. There is not a brook of living water of which thou mayst not drink. If the land floweth with milk and honey, eat the honey and drink the milk, for both are thine. Be thou bold to believe, for he hath said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”In this promise, God gives to his people everything. “I will never leave thee.” Then no attribute of God can cease to be engaged for us. Is he mighty? He will show himself strong on the behalf of them that trust him. Is he love? Then with loving kindness will he have mercy upon us. Whatever attributes may compose the character of Deity, every one of them to its fullest extent shall be engaged on our side. To put everything in one, there is nothing you can want, there is nothing you can ask for, there is nothing you can need in time or in eternity, there is nothing living, nothing dying, there is nothing in this world, nothing in the next world, there is nothing now, nothing at the resurrection-morning, nothing in heaven which is not contained in this text–“I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

Evening

“Take up the cross, and follow me.”
Mark 10:21

You have not the making of your own cross, although unbelief is a master carpenter at cross-making; neither are you permitted to choose your own cross, although self-will would fain be lord and master; but your cross is prepared and appointed for you by divine love, and you are cheerfully to accept it; you are to take up the cross as your chosen badge and burden, and not to stand cavilling at it. This night Jesus bids you submit your shoulder to his easy yoke. Do not kick at it in petulance, or trample on it in vain-glory, or fall under it in despair, or run away from it in fear, but take it up like a true follower of Jesus. Jesus was a cross-bearer; he leads the way in the path of sorrow. Surely you could not desire a better guide! And if he carried a cross, what nobler burden would you desire? The Via Crucis is the way of safety; fear not to tread its thorny paths.

Beloved, the cross is not made of feathers, or lined with velvet, it is heavy and galling to disobedient shoulders; but it is not an iron cross, though your fears have painted it with iron colours, it is a wooden cross, and a man can carry it, for the Man of sorrows tried the load. Take up your cross, and by the power of the Spirit of God you will soon be so in love with it, that like Moses, you would not exchange the reproach of Christ for all the treasures of Egypt. Remember that Jesus carried it, and it will smell sweetly; remember that it will soon be followed by the crown, and the thought of the coming weight of glory will greatly lighten the present heaviness of trouble. The Lord help you to bow your spirit in submission to the divine will ere you fall asleep this night, that waking with to-morrow’s sun, you may go forth to the day’s cross with the holy and submissive spirit which becomes a follower of the Crucified.

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IN SEASON AND JERUSALEM

Morning

Romans 5:6-11(KJV)
6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

“I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing.”
Ezekiel 34:26

Here is sovereign mercy–“I will give them the shower in its season.” Is it not sovereign, divine mercy?–for who can say, “I will give them showers,” except God? There is only one voice which can speak to the clouds, and bid them beget the rain. Who sendeth down the rain upon the earth? Who scattereth the showers upon the green herb? Do not I, the Lord? So grace is the gift of God, and is not to be created by man. It is also needed grace. What would the ground do without showers? You may break the clods, you may sow your seeds, but what can you do without the rain? As absolutely needful is the divine blessing. In vain you labour, until God the plenteous shower bestows, and sends salvation down. Then, it is plenteous grace. “I will send them showers.” It does not say, “I will send them drops,” but “showers.” So it is with grace. If God gives a blessing, he usually gives it in such a measure that there is not room enough to receive it. Plenteous grace! Ah! we want plenteous grace to keep us humble, to make us prayerful, to make us holy; plenteous grace to make us zealous, to preserve us through this life, and at last to land us in heaven. We cannot do without saturating showers of grace. Again, it is seasonable grace. “I will cause the shower to come down in his season.” What is thy season this morning? Is it the season of drought? Then that is the season for showers. Is it a season of great heaviness and black clouds? Then that is the season for showers. “As thy days so shall thy strength be.” And here is a varied blessing. “I will give thee showers of blessing.” The word is in the plural. All kinds of blessings God will send. All God’s blessings go together, like links in a golden chain. If he gives converting grace, he will also give comforting grace. He will send “showers of blessing.” Look up today, O parched plant, and open thy leaves and flowers for a heavenly watering.

Evening

“O Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy upon Jerusalem? … And the Lord answered the angel … with good words and comfortable words.”
Zechariah 1:12-13

What a sweet answer to an anxious enquiry! This night let us rejoice in it. O Zion, there are good things in store for thee; thy time of travail shall soon be over; thy children shall be brought forth; thy captivity shall end. Bear patiently the rod for a season, and under the darkness still trust in God, for his love burneth towards thee. God loves the church with a love too deep for human imagination: he loves her with all his infinite heart. Therefore let her sons be of good courage; she cannot be far from prosperity to whom God speaketh “good words and comfortable words.” What these comfortable words are the prophet goes on to tell us: “I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy.” The Lord loves his church so much that he cannot bear that she should go astray to others; and when she has done so, he cannot endure that she should suffer too much or too heavily. He will not have his enemies afflict her: he is displeased with them because they increase her misery. When God seems most to leave his church, his heart is warm towards her. History shows that whenever God uses a rod to chasten his servants, he always breaks it afterwards, as if he loathed the rod which gave his children pain. “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.” God hath not forgotten us because he smites–his blows are no evidences of want of love. If this is true of his church collectively, it is of necessity true also of each individual member. You may fear that the Lord has passed you by, but it is not so: he who counts the stars, and calls them by their names, is in no danger of forgetting his own children. He knows your case as thoroughly as if you were the only creature he ever made, or the only saint he ever loved. Approach him and be at peace.

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WRATH AND PREACH THE WORD

Morning

“The wrath to come.”
Matthew 3:7

It is pleasant to pass over a country after a storm has spent itself; to smell the freshness of the herbs after the rain has passed away, and to note the drops while they glisten like purest diamonds in the sunlight. That is the position of a Christian. He is going through a land where the storm has spent itself upon his Saviour’s head, and if there be a few drops of sorrow falling, they distil from clouds of mercy, and Jesus cheers him by the assurance that they are not for his destruction. But how terrible is it to witness the approach of a tempest: to note the forewarnings of the storm; to mark the birds of heaven as they droop their wings; to see the cattle as they lay their heads low in terror; to discern the face of the sky as it groweth black, and look to the sun which shineth not, and the heavens which are angry and frowning! How terrible to await the dread advance of a hurricane–such as occurs, sometimes, in the tropics–to wait in terrible apprehension till the wind shall rush forth in fury, tearing up trees from their roots, forcing rocks from their pedestals, and hurling down all the dwelling-places of man! And yet, sinner, this is your present position. No hot drops have as yet fallen, but a shower of fire is coming. No terrible winds howl around you, but God’s tempest is gathering its dread artillery. As yet the water-floods are dammed up by mercy, but the flood-gates shall soon be opened: the thunderbolts of God are yet in his storehouse, but lo! the tempest hastens, and how awful shall that moment be when God, robed in vengeance, shall march forth in fury! Where, where, where, O sinner, wilt thou hide thy head, or whither wilt thou flee? O that the hand of mercy may now lead you to Christ! He is freely set before you in the gospel: his riven side is the rock of shelter. Thou knowest thy need of him; believe in him, cast thyself upon him, and then the fury shall be overpast forever.

 

Evening


“But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa.”
Jonah 1:3

Instead of going to Nineveh to preach the Word, as God bade him, Jonah disliked the work and went down to Joppa to escape from it. There are occasions when God’s servants shrink from duty. But what is the consequence? What did Jonah lose by his conduct? He lost the presence and comfortable enjoyment of God’s love. When we serve our Lord Jesus as believers should do, our God is with us; and though we have the whole world against us, if we have God with us, what does it matter? But the moment we start back and seek our own inventions, we are at sea without a pilot. Then may we bitterly lament and groan out, “O my God, where hast thou gone? How could I have been so foolish as to shun thy service, and in this way to lose all the bright shinings of thy face? This is a price too high. Let me return to my allegiance, that I may rejoice in thy presence.” In the next place, Jonah lost all peace of mind. Sin soon destroys a believer’s comfort. It is the poisonous upas tree, from whose leaves distil deadly drops which destroy the life of joy and peace. Jonah lost everything upon which he might have drawn for comfort in any other case. He could not plead the promise of divine protection, for he was not in God’s ways; he could not say, “Lord, I meet with these difficulties in the discharge of my duty, therefore help me through them.” He was reaping his own deeds; he was filled with his own ways. Christian, do not play the Jonah, unless you wish to have all the waves and the billows rolling over your head. You will find in the long run that it is far harder to shun the work and will of God than to at once yield yourself to it. Jonah lost his time, for he had to go to Nineveh after all. It is hard to contend with God; let us yield ourselves at once.

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