God My Exceeding Joy” (1)

There appeared in the June issue of “Scripture Truth” a striking paper by W.H.Westcott, entitled, “Man dwelling in God and God in Man.” I will quote one or two of its sentences:

“But may we find home in God! And may God find home in us?”

“My guilty history is so dealt with … that my coming into God’s presence is not to be reminded of anything which would make me uneasy there. For ever no! The heart draws near to God in happy and holy freedom; we have access by one Spirit to the Father … made at home in God. All that the renewed heart sees in God makes it feel more and more at home. Holiness my home; righteousness my home; light my home; all that He is my home, my joy, my boast, my ecstasy. I dwell in God. Do not ask me to exchange that home for another. Do not tell me I shall be better off if I make more of this present world. I have found in God my Treasure, my Fame, any Life, my Recreation, my Repose, my All. What a God is He!”

Such words bear repeating. They come from a heart conscious of redemption—a guilty history dealt with; and not only peace with God possessed and enjoyed, but God Himself its realized home and resting-place. God is all! They bear witness to the more than possibility of “man dwelling in God.” They supply the fact. But what man? Man as a race? No! There is no immanence, either way, but on the ground of redemption. Man cannot dwell in God nor God in man apart from that work of His Spirit which takes man clean off the ground of nature, and places him, by faith in the blood of Christ, in new relations with God. It is only His children who can dwell in God and God in them. “They that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8). “But ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit.” And what are the possibilities of such? To what glorious altitudes may not they ascend? What a wealth of experience may not be theirs?

Let me quote that of Samuel Rutherford, written in dark days and small privilege, but telling, in his perfervid and glowing style, of apprehensions very similar to those just quoted.

“What is it,” he asks, “to be in God: to dwell in God? What a house must that be (1 John 4:13). How far are some from their house and home! How ill-acquainted with the rooms, mansions, safety and sweetness of holy security to be found in God. O what estrangement, what wandering, what frequent conversing with self and the creature! … When shall we attain to a living in only, only God, and be estranged from all the created nothings, the painted shadow beings of yesterday, which, an hour and less before creation, were dark waste negatives and empty nothings, and should so have been for eternity, had the Lord suffered them to lie there, for ever. It is He, the great He, ‘who sits upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers …’ (Isa. 40:22); and He, the only He, and there is no ‘He’ besides Him! … Yet we live at a distance from Him. O, if we knew how nothing we are without Him!”

Words two hundred and fifty years old, but fresh and rich and young as ever. Years, centuries, ages make no change in God. “Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations,” said Moses in Psalm 90, for that dwelling place was never closed to the generations of God’s people. He was, ever and always, their home. “So teach us,” said the same psalmist, “to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” No wisdom like that. He is a wise and happy man who makes God his dwelling place.

“Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy,” said David in Psalm 43. The knowledge of God supplies a joy which exceeds all other joys; a testimony true of all times and places.

I have been struck by the fact that Paul uses the words “My God” seven times, and, on one occasion, with charming felicity. In writing to the suffering assembly at Philippi, he says, “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:18). Notice, he does not say, Your God shall supply your need; nor, Your God shall supply mine; neither does he say, My God shall supply my need—all quite true; but he does say, My God shall supply your need—nay, all your need!

Wonderful intimacy! He lays down the riches of God alongside Philippian poverty, in the well-grounded assurance that the one would obliterate the other. He was confident that the infinite resources of Him whom he could call “My God,” were amply sufficient to meet the wants of His struggling people. But how could he say that, unless he had proved for himself, and in long and happy experience, that God was his own “shield and exceeding great reward.” He puts the two together—“My God,” “Your need,” and the need is gone! So he believed.

All sweetly true; only the resources of God are not to be measured or limited by our little need. Nay, place creation—the vast universe—alongside of, and in absolute dependence upon God! Do the same with that which exceeds creation; see that redemption in His work as well, and then think of God! And yet the Agnostic tells us today that God cannot be known! But neither can light be seen by the blind! It is the proper and normal privilege of the true Christian to know God (see Gal. 4:9), for that knowledge, in its blessedness, is an integral part of the New Covenant. Hence we read, “They shall all know me, says the Lord.” But while this is so, while this lies at the very bottom of true and vital Christianity, how deeply important it is that such knowledge should not be merely theoretic, but real, practical, and living. Thus we find, in 1 John 4:16, that “he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him.” The condition for this mutual immanence is that we dwell in love. There can be no such intimacy apart from the fulfilment of this condition. May we seek to dwell in love—holy, pure, divine love! Dwelling in God is no absorption, by and by, into some imaginary Nirvana, or the loss of all individual consciousness in a dreamy, unknown future. It is for us, here and now, in sorrow and trial, and weakness, and need, and opposition by the world and Satan, to dwell in God and God in us, and to find in Him all that heart could wish—that God is, indeed, “my exceeding joy.”

 “Source of purest bliss I find—
    Find in Thee alone, my God!
  Boundless love has made me Thine,
    Brought me nigh through Jesu’s blood.

 “What the world could ne’er bestow,
    I have found it all in Thee;
  In Thy perfect love I rest,
    Satisfied eternally.”