Sometimes God speaks.
And sometimes what He says is so matter-of-fact that you almost forget Who is speaking, and then you remember, and you experience what Jonathan Edwards described as “so sweet a sense of the glorious majesty and grace of God . . . majesty and meekness joined together . . . sweet and gentle and holy majesty; and also a majestic meekness; an awful sweetness,” and, like Edwards, you realize there aren’t enough words for this wonder.
The God of the universe bows so very low, and He speaks. Even to you.
And you know it’s not because you prepared your heart better than most days (you didn’t), or you’ve attained a generally exalted state of spirituality (you haven’t). You know it’s only because this God who is enthroned above the heavens and is also nearer than your breath — the One who has promised that you’ll hear a word behind you, this is the way, walk in it, whenever you turn to the right or left — knows how to make Himself heard, even if you are as dull as a brick.
So this morning, I gather my usual devotional materials and settle myself on the den sofa, and like most mornings, before I open Streams in the Desert, I have to remind myself of the day’s date. “March 4th,” I mutter aloud.
Nothing extraordinary there, except that in the next instant, the date presents itself quite emphatically as March Forth. And it isn’t a suggestion. It’s an order.
At once I’m certain that this divine bit of creativity (got to love it when God makes a pun) has something to do with what I’m about to read, so I sit up a bit straighter and decide I best pay attention.
I open Streams in the Desert, and right out of the blocks, Hebrews 6:12 urges me to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what is promised. “The biblical heroes of faith call to us from the heights they have won, encouraging us that what man once did, man can do again.” March forth.
Then Daily Light reminds me to set my affection on things above, not on things on the earth. Lay not up for yourselves treasure upon earth, but lay up treasures in heaven . . . and one might think that this clear sense of God’s speaking would keep my mind resolutely focused, but right about now my thoughts wander to our not-yet-filed taxes and some hurdles associated with that task, and before I realize what’s happening, the things of earth have snagged my attention (if not my affection — taxes aren’t my favorite). So I regroup and read the entry again, concentrating on the words.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. We walk by faith, not by sight. March forth.
I think about how foolish we look to the world when we walk by faith. They can’t understand it. They have “no more notion of [delight in things of religion] than one born blind has of pleasant and beautiful colours.” Jonathan Edwards again. Because, as God would have it (there’s no such thing as “chance” in walk-by-faith land), I started reading Iain H. Murray’s biography of Edwards this weekend, and now lingering impressions intrude into my morning meditations. In particular, three of his seventy personal resolutions goad my conscience.
- Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.
- Resolved, To live with all my might, while I do live.
- Resolved, Never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour before I should hear the last trump.
Conviction pricks. How much time do I waste on meaningless, lazy, or selfish pursuits? It’s not like I’m lacking opportunity or godly examples. In every century, God raises up people like Jonathan Edwards — men and women who persevere as though seeing what is unseen, eyes set on the finish line.
“Imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what is promised.” March forth.
And then I turn to my old friend, Oswald, and the beloved and battered copy of My Utmost for His Highest that my sister-in-law gave me when my kids were two, four, and six. We’ve been through a lot together, Oswald and I. What would he add to the conversation?
“None of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself” . . . Acts 20:24. It is easier to serve or work for God without a vision and without a call, because then you are not bothered by what He requires. Common sense, covered with a layer of Christian emotion, becomes your guide. You may be more prosperous and successful from the world’s perspective, and will have more leisure time, if you never acknowledge the call of God. But once you receive a commission from Jesus Christ, the memory of what God asks of you will always be there to prod you on to do His will.
He might as well have inserted, “March forth,” right there. At this point I’m almost laughing. And then?
I open the Word to our reading for the day. It’s 2 Kings 8 (God sovereign over the panorama of history; God intimately concerned with the needs of the one) and Isaiah 18 (God looking quietly from His dwelling, seeing, knowing, ordering all) and then this in Luke 6:20-22:
20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
Jesus issues the same call: to march forth in pursuit of the One Prize, no matter how hard the road may get. To know you are blessed, blessed, blessed when you run hard after Him — when you desire the kingdom of God over worldly riches, and when you crave true spiritual meat over temporary satisfaction, and when you mourn the brokenness of this wayward world without losing your joy.
And when people turn on you?
You remember that they’ve never tasted His “awful sweetness,” and you steady every weight against “the glorious majesty and grace of God,” and you forgive them, for they know not what they do.
You march forth, and God rejoices with you, because you heard and followed. You were faithful in little, and your reward in heaven is great.
Sometimes God speaks. He doesn’t ask for much. Only that you trade your brokenness for His beauty, your rags for His righteousness, and your death for His life. And — as my old friend Oswald points out — that you “never consider whether you’re of use; but ever consider that you are not your own but His.”
He’s given you everything you need for life and godliness, and He asks only that you present your body as a living sacrifice, that He might fill you and use you to offer the same abundance to others.
He asks only that you daily come to Him and trust Him to make His plans and purposes known.
And after the God of the universe has drawn closer than your breath, bandaged your wounds, fed your soul with daily bread, and armed you with spiritual weapons? What do you do then?
Well, that’s easy. March forth.
* * *
Giving thanks in community for (#715 – 726)
restful days to recover from sickness
George’s servant heart
a holy, almighty God who speaks
sunlight through branches and dancing shadows
time alone at the piano
carrots from the garden
the secret place of the Most High
hot tea with honey