“Thus says the Lord, that after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon, I will visit you and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:10-11).
This Scripture is a fine pillow of down for a weary head, and every one of us may lay our heads on that divine pillow, in the midst of conflict and distress. There is no treasure-store for God’s people like the thoughts of God. God always has an end in view in His dealings with His children: He wants to give us an “expected end.”
Turn to Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” The Epistle to the Romans presents salvation as a future thing, and we are looked at as being disciplined—but we know that all things will work together for good. He is shaping all, with an end in view.
In Jeremiah, although at that time Israel was in captivity through their failure, yet the Lord could say, “I know the thoughts that I think towards you, thoughts of peace.” My eye is upon you, even in Babylon! It is as a Refiner of silver, who stirs the molten metal up to a certain point. What point is that? The point at which he can see the clear reflection of himself in the molten metal. Then he says, that is enough! This is only an illustration, but in like manner, when the child of God is brought to the point in which he can say, “Thy will be done,” that is the reflection of His image.
Turn to 2 Corinthians 4:7-21, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.” We are very slow to learn that all the power is of God (v. 7). You must allow yourself to go, and let all the power be of God. Verses 8 and 9 are a collection of paradoxes, and yet they are the experience of the children of God; the statements appear contradictory, but they are not really so. Verses 10 and 11 have to do with the present time: the reproduction of the life of Jesus, in the lives of Christians. Oh! set your heart on that—that the life of Jesus may be reproduced in your daily walk down here.
Now turn to Hebrews 12:3-12. “Consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds: ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin”—We have not been called to lay down our lives as martyrs—“And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaks unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him: for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives; if ye endure chastening God deals with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chastens not? . . . Now no chastening for the present seems to be joyous but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby: Wherefore lift up the hands that hang down, and the feeble knees.” It is so easy to faint! but we do this, when we fail to see His intention in the chastening: that it is “for our profit that we might be partakers of His holiness” (v. 10). He always has “an expected end” in view, and “we shall reap, if we faint not.” The Lord never fails His people, so we ought not to faint.
Editor’s Note.—The above brief notes of an address given eleven years ago have been sent to us from Southampton by an aged brother. who in bereavement and personal affliction had profited by the Scriptures thus so fittingly linked together and the short comments upon them. We gladly give the notes a place in our columns.
We append also some extracts from the communication that accompanied them:
If I add a few words it is only to show how heartily I add my Amen to them, having, in a time of deep affliction, experienced the truth of what dear J. Wilson Smith urges upon us as to the true light in which to regard God’s dealings with His children; that is to take God’s own account of what His thoughts are toward them, and what His end in view is, in accordance with His thoughts, whether in seasons of affliction as in Romans 8:28, or in trials under the hand of God in discipline, as in Hebrews 12, or in sufferings in connection with the testimony of God, as in 2 Corinthians 4:7-11.
There were peculiar circumstances in the way my beloved wife was suddenly stricken down at my side that were enough to try the strongest faith. Could I trust the Lord? was the question . . . Not long after I was laid aside. A more serious attack followed—far more serious—and I was quite unable for a time to hold any communication with my loved ones who waited upon me.
I thus got time for much reflection and quiet prayer and much inquiry of the One who had called me to His kingdom and glory, as to the reason He had for calling me to pass through these afflictions. During all that time of patient inquiry the Lord gradually showed me that His object was more conformity to Himself personally, and that He desired to let the light of His own glory more into the depths of my heart and so to have more of my heart’s affections for Himself; in other words, to restore me individually to nothing less than to “first love.”
What He says about power in connection with 2 Corinthians 4:7-11—that we are very slow to learn that all the power is of God, and that we must let ourselves go, that it may be so—is very true. I have been marvelling that though an old sojourner in the wilderness, having known this fact a good many years, yet in practice I have to confess to weakness. There is a difference between the knowledge of Scripture and its application in our practical walk. Hence the lack of that real power which the apostle referred to when he said, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9).
Hence in writing to his beloved Philippians the apostle exhorts them “as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (2:12-13). But if the human will is not broken, it must be; and God takes His own way of doing this in His own time, though His one end in view is to help those He loves to learn the blessed liberty resulting from His working in His saints to will and to do of His good pleasure. [J.S.O.]