Scripture Notes (2)

The Way of Peace

"In nothing be anxious: but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which passes all understanding shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7. R.V.).

Well known and often quoted words, but have we grasped their full meaning? Is it possible that in the midst of war and alarms by day and night we should have a peace that passes all understanding keeping our hearts and thoughts? Well, that is what the immutable word of God proposes, our part is to put it to the test. "The Lord is at hand" precedes His wonderful words. He is near. He is so near to us, so interested in us and so accessible that the instant circumstances arise that cause us anxiety we may refer them to Him, we may tell Him how we feel about them and what our requests are in regard to them. That is surely the meaning of the words. And not only these words but many others could be quoted to prove that God is delighted when His children confide in Him with child-like trust, it must grieve Him when they carry their anxieties and burdens on their own spirits and are dumb towards Him.

The sense of the nearness of God — He is round about them that fear Him — and His ever opened ear to our prayers, and His ceaseless and minute care of us fills our hearts with thanksgiving and opens our mouths with simplicity and confidence, and we realise that God is greater than the worst of circumstances and nearer to us than they are. The result is that His peace that passes all understanding stands round us and keeps our hearts and thoughts, those gates of the soul at which the circumstances would batter to gain an entrance within us for fear and doubts and murmurings and repinings. God is glorified and we are kept in peace as we confide in Him. It does not follow that we shall get what we ask for, but this peace is better than our request, even as Paul found the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to be better than the boon that he asked for thrice.

OUR STRONGHOLD AND HOPE

"The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows them that trust in Him" (Nahum 1:7).

Nahum's prophecy is a short one that describes in graphic terms the terrors of war. The aggressor is there, the mighty men, the steel chariots that race in the streets and burn like torches, and flash as lightning, the horsemen, the glittering spears and the flashing sword are there; there are the multitude of the dead, they stumble over great heaps of corpses; and the Lord is there, slow to anger but great in power, taking vengeance on the oppressor. Yet in this same prophecy there are gleams of light that fill the soul with confidence and teach us where our refuge is even in the darkest of days. What words could bring a greater peace into a troubled yet trusting soul than these, "The Lord is good; a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows them that trust in Him."

Then what encouragement there is to look beyond the gloom and tribulations to the time when woes and wars shall cease, for we read. "Behold upon the mountains the feet of Him that brings good tidings, that publisheth peace" (1:15). We know that the only one who can bring peace to the earth is the Lord Himself. Not the destruction of dictatorships by the vengeful sword of the democracies, but the personal appearance of the Son of Man will bring peace to distressed nations. It is the nail-pierced feet that will appear upon the mountains of Judea and judge the nations for the glory of God and for the peace of Israel.

We look for Him from heaven first to take to Himself His blood-bought Church and then to appear in glory with sword and sceptre, bringing in peace as a result of righteousness. This is our hope and it is both sure and certain. In view of all it means we cry. "Even so, come Lord Jesus." Meanwhile He is a stronghold in the day of trouble and He knows them that trust in Him."

THEY WERE NOT CONFOUNDED

"Our fathers trusted in Thee; they trusted and Thou didst deliver them; they cried to Thee and were delivered; they trusted in Thee and were not confounded" (Psalm 22:4-5).

It cannot be questioned that this psalm was the language of the Lord Jesus in His great sorrow as the Sin-bearer, in those dark hours when He was forsaken of God for our sakes. He recalled and recounted the fact that never had anyone cried to God in vain, and never had one trusted in Him and been confounded; no not one. He alone, amazing fact, suffered thus; but we know the reason: it was that we might never be confounded, that we might be delivered when we cried, that we might trust and not be afraid.

And as never before the cross did any one cry to God in his distress and find God's ear closed against his cry, so has it been since the cross. How full of comfort are those words in Hebrews 13:5, "He has said, I will in no wise fail thee, neither will I in any wise forsake thee, " "So that with good courage we say, the Lord is my helper: I will not fear what shall man do to me" (R.V.). These words were uttered first to the lonely wanderer Jacob, and then to the warrior Joshua, and lastly to the worshipper Solomon, they are brought into the New Testament it would seem specially for us and at such a time as this.

But while we draw the comfort that lies in the Word of God for us let us never forget that our safety is the result of our Saviour's sacrifice, that we shall never be-forsaken because He suffered this for us.

FAITH AND FORGIVENESS

"Have faith in God. . . and when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any, that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will you Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses" (Mark 11:22-26).

Two things are necessary if our prayers are to be heard and answered: faith towards God and forgiveness towards all others. The Lord Himself has joined them together in these memorable words, and we must not put asunder what He has joined together. Other Scriptures teach us the same thing, 1 Timothy 2:8 for instance, though there a third necessity is brought in — "holy hands", personal holiness, "without wrath", no hard feelings towards others, and "without doubting" faith in God. Herein may be the secret of many unanswered prayers. Two brothers kneel in the same prayer meeting; their being there indicates that they have some faith in God, but they have hard and unforgiving thoughts towards each other; their prayers are vain and empty words.

We must search our hearts, for pray we must; there never was a time in our day when prayer was more needed, both in private and public; it is useless to pray in public if we do not pray in private, and we must not forsake the assembling of ourselves together for prayer. We must pray in faith Godward, believing that He is, and that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him, but He will not hear us unless we forgive one another. He has met us with full forgiveness, cancelling all our debt to Him, and we must bear His character towards all, whether near at hand or afar off, whether brother or sister in the Lord or man of the world.

If we do not forgive we are not forgiven as children and communion with God our Father is suspended, His Spirit within us is grieved, and it is presumption to go on as though all was right, it is insincerity and displeasing to God. True prayer is communion with God, it is speaking to Him with the confidence of an uncondemning heart, "and whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight" (1 John 3:22).

This is a time when hard feelings should be judged, offences forgiven, breaches healed and fellowship restored, that united and effectual prayer might rise up from earnest, sincere and agreeing hearts to God, who is "very pitiful and of tender mercy" for men in the miseries and His own well beloved saints in their perplexities and fears.