When the affections of the Christian are right they flow in one channel. Thus God said of Israel, “thou wentest after me in the wilderness” (Jer. 2:2). That was in the days of youth—kindly days—when the heart was warm and first love in full play.
The wilderness formed no obstacle to this holy pursuit, for the one object was the Lord Himself.
If He saw fit to lead in lonely and desert ways, if the surroundings were uncongenial, and if there was nought to feed the mere natural tastes and senses, still the heart was satisfied. It went after the Lord, and He proved all-sufficient. Yes, their young days were bright, and how full of honour to the Lord!
And sometimes, beloved, we sing:
“Jesus, Thou art enough
The heart and mind to fill.”
And as we sing we realise our wealthy portion, and thus furnish pleasure to Him.
Oh! how grateful to Him in such reciprocated affection! See how he responded to the yearnings of Mary as she clung, despairingly, to the empty tomb! “They have taken away my Lord” was the heavy plaint of her broken heart, “and I know not where they have laid him.” Until she knew where He was she could not rest. But the blessed Lord more than met all her deep cravings. He appeared to her in resurrection form, the living Lord, unchanged in affection for His poor desolate people, and called her by name, giving her tidings of the new relationship that now subsisted between Himself and His brethren, tidings which she, first of all, was honoured to communicate to them.
It may be said of her that she, too, went after the Lord in the wilderness. She was first at the tomb. She prevented the morning, and went while it was yet dark to the sepulchre, if, perchance, she might see the form of her beloved Master. Hers was the impulse of love, And shall we blame her for want of intelligence? Did the Master do so? Then we may be silent.
He appreciated her love, just as we know He appreciates ours. “If any man love God, the same is known of him,” and after all, it may be safely affirmed that love makes fewer mistakes than intelligence. When Paul wrote to his warm-hearted Philippians he took notice of their love, only praying that it should “abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment.’”
This is instructive. He desired that they should be intelligent, but that their love, instead of being checked, or damped, or decreased in any way, should abound yet more and more.
You can reckon on love being faithful. Win the heart and you have all. The head alone cannot, of course, be trusted. Let the head, the intelligence, be swayed by the affections and you secure devotedness. Let love abound in knowledge. If Mary gave pleasure to the Lord, the Philippians gladdened the heart of His servant Paul.
In each case the affections had the chief place. And would it not be well, in this day of learning and mental activity, this proud and vain-glorious day, if we all sought of the Lord a little more of this inner spring of love for Himself.
Oh! what does He value more than love? “Remember,” He said, in words of sorrowful reproach to the church at Ephesus, “from whence thou art fallen.”
Their activity was great, and their moral ways blameless; but they had “left their first love.” The spring was love.
The youth of Ephesus, like that of Israel, had been marked by faithfulness. Then they both went after the Lord. This was welcome to Him, and He bears witness to it. Alas! that in each case He should have to deplore a fall! and that repentance was incumbent on them.
Now, is not the wilderness unfelt when the soul truly goes after the Lord?
Yes, He suffices! His fullness needs no addition, no supplement. Granted only His presence, then dearth is unnoticed.
And if this be true in the experience of the soul individually, it is assuredly not less true in that of the assembly of His people. His presence in the midst of two or three, apart from those accessories which the senses deem so important, eloquence, music, and the like, and, indeed, in spite of their absence—His realised presence is quite enough.
Exercise of soul is required so that His presence may be made good, for “being gathered in his name” is no empty form or assumed privilege, no party badge or conventional rallying-point; but with that exercise His presence, in all its blessedness, is graciously vouchsafed; so that, in thus “going after the Lord,” the richness of the land is enjoyed instead of the weary experiences of the wilderness being felt.
Yes, there are milk and honey instead of weary wastes, and the soul is in the enjoyment of a favour that is better than life.
Think, dear reader, what honour you can place on your Lord by such a testimony. With the major part of professing Christians today it is the Lord and some form of the world, some addition to Himself—a mongrel Samaritan worship of the Lord and their own gods (2 Ki. 17:33), a deplorable admission that the Lord is not enough to satisfy, a love of pleasure more than a love of God.
Now, against all this confusion you can bear a bright witness. You can assert, each moment of your life, that you go after the Lord in the wilderness, in a land that is not sown, and that His love sustains and satisfies your heart all along the way. “Christ is all, and in all.”