THE GOOD OLD DAYS?
If you are feeling sad about the thought of having to wear a face mask for the foreseeable future, down about the restrictions that remain over what we can and cannot do, and concerned about the economic consequences of lockdown every bit as much as you are about those who continue to contract coronavirus and the possibility of a second wave, then you may, like me, find yourself longing for a time before all this, when things seemed better than they currently are.
But the Bible has something to say to those of us who feel this way. It tells us that we are not being wise.
‘Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.’ [Ecclesiastes 7:10]
Why might this be?
One reason is that we are not being wise if we think that God is somehow in less control today than he was a year ago, that his sovereignty has been compromised, that he no longer works all things for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. [Romans 8:28] Because God has not changed. He is still good, his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness continues to all generations. [Psalm 100:5]
Rather then than allowing what we now experience to cause us to yearn for days that are past, days which, though they may be fondly remembered as so much better than they are today, had, in reality, amply sufficient trouble of their own, we would do well to allow instead our longing for better times to point us forward to that day which is surely coming when all that is currently wrong will be put right.
The Preacher in Ecclesiastes who counsels us that it is unwise to long for days that are past does so because our happiness is not to be found there. What we fondly remember is but a reminder of what has been lost and a shadow of what will one day be.
As C.S. Lewis wrote:
‘The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; for it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things – the beauty, the memory of our own past – are good images of what we really desire, but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a far country we have not yet visited.’
This longing for what we do not yet see is the eternity for which we were made, the eternity that God has placed in our hearts. [Ecclesiastes 3:11].
So though, for a time, our faces may have to remain masked, let us look forward to what will one day be, let us look forward to a time when, not only will the whole of creation be restored to how it was always meant to be but we all will also, with unveiled faces, behold the glory of the Lord and be transformed into that same image’. [2 Corinthians 3:18]
‘For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now [we] know in part; then [we] shall know fully, even as [we] have been fully known’. [1 Corinthians 13:12].
SOVEREIGNTY OVER SUFFERING
God is ‘enthroned as the Holy One’ [Psalm 22:3].
Despite God’s absolute sovereignty, despite his spotless purity, David, the one described as a man after God’s own heart [1 Samuel 13:14], was allowed to experience desperate suffering. It was not because of a lack of power or righteousness on God’s part.
Neither was it because of some deficiency in God that Jesus suffered. On the contrary, ‘it was the will of the LORD to crush him; [Isaiah 53:10] He was ‘delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God’ [Acts 2:23], ‘as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. [Romans 3:25-26]
God chose for David to suffer.
God chose for Jesus to suffer.
For righteousness sake.
And he may likewise chose for us to suffer too. And if he does we can draw comfort from the fact that it will be according to the ‘good and acceptable and perfect’ will of God [Romans 12:2]. No matter its intensity, just as David and Jesus’s suffering had a purpose, so too will ours. It will be be for righteousness sake and It will be for our good, a ‘light momentary affliction [that] is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison [2 Corinthians 4:17].
Let us then not be surprised when suffering comes, but be granted the faith to know that ‘after [we] have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called [us] to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish [us] [1 Peter 5:10].
We shall know then the fullness of the eternal glory that we now proclaim. Despite the suffering described at its start, Psalm 22 ends with a description of how the poor and afflicted will eat and be satisfied [v26]. Even those who could not keep themselves alive will eat and worship [v29]. Their hearts will live forever [v26]. Blessed [too are we who] are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ [Revelation 19:9]. By believing in the one who said I am the resurrection and the life, we are those who ‘though [we] die, yet shall [we] live’ [John 11:25].
The suffering we experience now may be great but we can be sure that there is a day coming when every tear will be wiped away and death shall be no more, ‘neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things [will] have passed away’ [Revelation 21:4]
Though suffering may come, may we proclaim the Lord’s righteousness today. May His name be praised for evermore.
THE WRITINGS ON THE WALL
The writing was on the wall for King Belshazzar that night when Darius the Mede took over his kingdom in Daniel 5. We can learn from his experience that, as with King Belshazzar, God holds in his hand our lives and all our ways.
In our fallenness and arrogant pride we resist this and struggle to break free, longing to be the masters of our own fate. But by faith we know that, despite how it may sometimes seem, to be in the hands of the one who rules over the whole of creation is not only a good thing, it is the best thing.
God has numbered the days of our lives and will one day bring them to an end. Were we to be weighed on the scales we too would be found wanting. But rather than separating us from himself he has chosen to be merciful to us and unite us to his son Jesus Christ, who humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross. He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities and upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace.
And so, on account of that perfect sacrifice, we are redeemed, our sin is atoned for and there is now no condemnation for we who are in Christ. And so, even though like Belshazzar we will die, on account of Jesus, the one who is both the resurrection and the life, yet shall we live.
May he, in his loving kindness, continue to humble us daily, even as we humble ourselves before him, may our knees, along with every other knee in heaven and on earth, gladly bow at the name of Jesus and may our tongues, along with every tongue, confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father
For He is the King
SIGNED, SEALED AND DELIVERED?
I like how, what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:3,
‘And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.’
is a fulfilment of God’s promise of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:33
‘For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.’
The Old Covenant with all its demands, rather than commend us, could only condemn.
The New Covenant however, secured by the blood of Jesus [Luke 22:20], provides us with the righteousness we could not produce. The gospel, the power of God for salvation [Romans 1:16], changes us, writing on our hearts what once was written only on tablets of stone.
It is not what we do that commends us but rather what Christ has done, in and through us. If we think we can prove that we are good Christians by what we do we put ourselves under the law and will fail. But if we are not ashamed of the gospel, if we have confidence in Christ and trust him to be the great Saviour he is, we will see him graciously succeed in making us, and others, those who are pleasing to him.
Thanks be to God.
2 Corinthians 7:9 is an interesting verse that teach a hard lesson – that God sometimes works through suffering and sadness to bring about his good purposes.
‘As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.’
There is such a thing as ‘godly grief’, a sorrow that God intends for us which is for our good and for our ultimate joy.
It is the way of the cross.
Through what is painful, through what is contrary to what we may naturally desire and through what the world considers as foolishness, [1 Corinthians 1:18] God in his wisdom is pleased to work for our joy.
That was how it was for Jesus, ‘who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, [Hebrews 12:2]. Such is God’s love for us that he may, as a result of that love, ordain suffering and sadness for us too.
‘For the Lord disciplines the one he loves…he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.’ [Hebrews 12:6,10-11]
Wonderfully, God is more concerned with the eternal joy that we will know as a result of our being made like Jesus than the transient happiness we may feel from getting what we want today.
Praise God for that he knows what’s best for us better than we do ourselves, not least, like the Corinthians, our need to be broken and brought to repentance.
What an encouragement is found in Psalm 4O for those who, despite knowing they are saved, continue to find life a struggle. Because whilst it is a psalm of David and a psalm that points us to Christ, it is, as the writer of the notes suggests, also our story.
Even though we can joyfully sing of how we have been lifted out of the miry pit and had our feet set on a rock, even though we have had a new song put in our mouth, and even though we are blessed as those who have put their trust in God, even so, troubles without number still surround us.
That they do does not question the reality of the salvation that we already have. We have been saved but still we have a need to go on being saved.
Our salvation is both already and not yet.
But one day we can be sure that we will know what it is to fully saved, we can sure that everything that is currently wrong will one day be made forever right, because, poor and needy though we may find ourselves this morning, the Lord still thinks of us.
And so, confident of our future and despite the difficulties we currently experience, may we rejoice and be glad in him today.
May we speak of his righteousness, faithfulness and love.
And, as we wait patiently for the LORD, may He be exalted.
For ‘Faith in the time of Coronavirus’, click https://peteaird.org/2020/04/06/faith-in-the-time-of-coronavirus/here
For ‘Faith in the time of Coronavirus – 2’, click https://peteaird.org/2020/05/19/faith-in-the-time-of-coronavirus-2/here
For ‘Faith in the time of Coronavirus – 4’, click here