Bitterness and Joy

"The heart knows his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy" (Proverbs 14:10).

"The heart knows his own bitterness." There is one heart that fits into that sentence; it is the heart that was broken by reproach; that was melted in the hot furnace of deepest affliction, and that experienced the unspeakable bitterness of Calvary's woe. It is the heart of Jesus the beloved Son of the Father,

"Who us to save from loss,
Did taste the bitter cup of death
Upon the cross."

The Father knows and understands what it meant to His Son to bear sin's judgment, and the Holy Spirit can gauge the infinite depths of suffering into which He went when He suffered, the Just One for us the unjust; but none other in the wide universe can share with Him the knowledge of the mystery of those awful hours, the bitterness of the cup that He drank then, or know the cost that redemption laid upon Him.

His sufferings were infinite, and only He whose goings forth were from eternity, and had become Man that He might be the Saviour of sinful men, could have endured them. It was His love that led Him to suffer, and His love like His sufferings passes all knowledge. The suffering is over now and the judgment is all exhausted for us for ever, for He has been raised up from the dead, but His love abides in all its unchanging strength, and it can only be measured by what it suffered.

"How deep the sorrow, none can tell
  What was for us endured,
O love divine that broke the spell
  Which had our hearts allured.
With heart and conscience now set free,
It is our joy to think of Thee."

"And a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy." He has entered into a joy which also passes telling. It shone in all its attractiveness and incomparable glory beyond the gloom of suffering and death, and to reach it He endured the cross, despising the shame. He has entered it now, and in it He has companions, for He is anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows (Heb. 1:9). No stranger intermeddles with this joy, nor can understand it. It moves in a sacred enclosure that shall never be profaned by alien feet, but blessed fact, ye who love Him are no longer "strangers and foreigners" (Eph. 2:19). He has called you His friends (John 15:15). You are His companions, through His exceeding grace, to know the secret of His gladness and to share His joy.

His joy is not in the unfallen angels, but in those whom He has ransomed from sin and hell at so great a cost, and who, sanctified in Himself, are now His assembly. So precious are they to Him that wherever two or three of them are gathered together there He is (Matt. 18:20). They are God's husbandry (1 Cor. 3), the garden of His delights, and He desires that they should know His pleasure in them and share in His joy. "God … has called us to the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Cor. 9). There is a verse in the sixth chapter of Solomon's Song that expresses it. "I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice: I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends, drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved." Do we realize what we are to the Lord, especially when gathered together to His name? Are we conscious that our adoration is fragrant to Him as sweetest spices, that our company is a joy to His heart, and that our love is sweet as honey to His taste? Surely if we did we should labour more diligently to be acceptable to Him; we should place ourselves in His hands that as He washed His disciples' feet of old, so might He wash ours, and remove from us all that would cause any sense of distance between our souls and Himself, that we might have part with Him (John 13:8). It is our exceedingly great and precious privilege to be pleasurable to Him where He meets "His own," and here He sees of the travail of His soul even before we reach the glory and are like Him altogether.

But He would have us to rejoice also; we are called to have fellowship with Him, so He says to us, addressing us in most endearing terms, "Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved." We sit under His shadow with great delight, and His fruit is sweet to our taste. We meditate upon His sorrow and death and learn the fullness of His love thereby; we eat His flesh and drink His blood, for His flesh is meat indeed and His blood is drink indeed (John 6:55). Thus we enter into the reality of a wholly divine fellowship, fellowship with the Father and the Son, and His joy remains in us and our joy is full (John 17:11). May God awaken us by His Spirit to consider more the sorrows and joys of our Lord Jesus Christ and may we yield ourselves to His pleasure.