Morning and Evening

August 17

“The mercy of God.” Psalm 52:8

Meditate a little on this mercy of the Lord. It is tender mercy. With gentle, loving touch, he healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. He is as gracious in the manner of his mercy as in the matter of it. It is great mercy. There is nothing little in God; his mercy is like himself—it is infinite. You cannot measure it. His mercy is so great that it forgives great sins to great sinners, after great lengths of time, and then gives great favours and great privileges, and raises us up to great enjoyments in the great heaven of the great God. It is undeserved mercy, as indeed all true mercy must be, for deserved mercy is only a misnomer for justice. There was no right on the sinner’s part to the kind consideration of the Most High; had the rebel been doomed at once to eternal fire he would have richly merited the doom, and if delivered from wrath, sovereign love alone has found a cause, for there was none in the sinner himself. It is rich mercy. Some things are great, but have little efficacy in them, but this mercy is a cordial to your drooping spirits; a golden ointment to your bleeding wounds; a heavenly bandage to your broken bones; a royal chariot for your weary feet; a bosom of love for your trembling heart. It is manifold mercy. As Bunyan says, “All the flowers in God’s garden are double.” There is no single mercy. You may think you have but one mercy, but you shall find it to be a whole cluster of mercies. It is abounding mercy. Millions have received it, yet far from its being exhausted; it is as fresh, as full, and as free as ever. It is unfailing mercy. It will never leave thee. If mercy be thy friend, mercy will be with thee in temptation to keep thee from yielding; with thee in trouble to prevent thee from sinking; with thee living to be the light and life of thy countenance; and with thee dying to be the joy of thy soul when earthly comfort is ebbing fast.

Evening

“This sickness is not unto death.” John 11:4

From our Lord’s words we learn that there is a limit to sickness. Here is an “unto” within which its ultimate end is restrained, and beyond which it cannot go. Lazarus might pass through death, but death was not to be the ultimatum of his sickness. In all sickness, the Lord saith to the waves of pain, “Hitherto shall ye go, but no further.” His fixed purpose is not the destruction, but the instruction of his people. Wisdom hangs up the thermometer at the furnace mouth, and regulates the heat.

1. The limit is encouragingly comprehensive. The God of providence has limited the time, manner, intensity, repetition, and effects of all our sicknesses; each throb is decreed, each sleepless hour predestinated, each relapse ordained, each depression of spirit foreknown, and each sanctifying result eternally purposed. Nothing great or small escapes the ordaining hand of him who numbers the hairs of our head.

2. This limit is wisely adjusted to our strength, to the end designed, and to the grace apportioned. Affliction comes not at haphazard—the weight of every stroke of the rod is accurately measured. He who made no mistakes in balancing the clouds and meting out the heavens, commits no errors in measuring out the ingredients which compose the medicine of souls. We cannot suffer too much nor be relieved too late.

3. The limit is tenderly appointed. The knife of the heavenly Surgeon never cuts deeper than is absolutely necessary. “He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.” A mother’s heart cries, “Spare my child”; but no mother is more compassionate than our gracious God. When we consider how hard-mouthed we are, it is a wonder that we are not driven with a sharper bit. The thought is full of consolation, that he who has fixed the bounds of our habitation, has also fixed the bounds of our tribulation.

Spurgeon, C. H. 

Amazing Grace Hymns

August 16

NEARER, MY GOD, TO THEE

Sarah R. Adams, 1805–1848

Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you. (James 4:8 KJV)

This well-loved hymn was written by a talented and charming English woman who lived only 43 years. In spite of her delicate health, Sarah Flower Adams had an active and productive life. After a successful career on the London stage as Shakespeare’s Lady MacBeth, she began to write and became widely known for her literary accomplishments. The cross mentioned in the first stanza of her hymn text may have been the physical handicaps that limited her many ambitions.

Sarah’s sister Eliza was gifted musically and often composed melodies for her sister’s poems. Together they contributed 13 texts and 62 new tunes for a hymnal that was being compiled by their pastor. One day the Rev. William J. Fox asked for a new hymn to accompany his sermon on the story of Jacob and Esau. Sarah spent much time studying Genesis 28:10–22 and within a short time completed all of the stanzas of “Nearer, My God, to Thee.” Since that day in 1840, this hymn has had an unusual history of ministering spiritual comfort to hurting people everywhere.

These lines picturing Jacob sleeping on a stone, dreaming of angels, and naming the place Bethel, meaning “the house of God,” seem to reflect the common yearning—especially in times of deep need—to experience God’s nearness and presence in a very real way.

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee! E’en tho it be a cross that raiseth me; still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Tho like the wanderer, the sun gone down, darkness be over me, my rest a stone, yet in my dreams I’d be nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Then with my waking thoughts, bright with Thy praise, out of my stony griefs. Bethel I raise; so by my woes to be nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

Or if on joyful wing, cleaving the sky, sun, moon, and stars forgot, upward I fly, till all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

For Today: Genesis 28:10–22; Psalm 16:7, 8; 73:28; 145:18; Jeremiah 29:13; Acts 17:27

When I seek God, He has promised to draw very close to me. What a joyful experience to know His intimate presence throughout every hour of this day. It causes me to sing—

Osbeck, K. W. 

EZC

  • Now Jacob departed from Beersheba, and went to Haran, And he came unto a certain place, and tarried there all night because the sun was down, and took of the stones of the place, and laid under his head and slept in the same place. Then he dreamed, and behold, there stood a ladder upon the earth, and the top of it reached up to heaven: and lo, the Angels of God went up and down by it. And behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land, upon the which thou sleepest, will I give thee and thy seed. And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the West, and to the East, and to the North, and to the South, and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And lo, I am with thee, and will keep thee whithersoever thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land: for I will not forsake thee until I have performed that, that I have promised thee. Then Jacob awoke out of his sleep and said, Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware. And he was afraid, and said, How fearful is this place? this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. Then Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had laid under his head, and set it up as a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel: notwithstanding the name of that city was at the First called Luz. Then Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this journey which I go, and will give me bread to eat, and clothes to put on: So that I come again unto my father’s house in safety, then shall the Lord be my God. And this stone, which I have set up as a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me, will I give the tenth unto theeGenesis 28:10–22
  • I will praise the Lord, who hath given me counsel: my reins also teach me in the nights. I have set the Lord always before me: for he is at my right hand: therefore I shall not slidePsalm 16:7-8
  • As for me, it is good for me to draw near to God: therefore I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy worksPsalm 73:28
  • The Lord is near unto all that call upon him, yea, to all that call upon him in truthPsalm 145:18
  • And ye shall seek me, and find me, because ye shall seek me with all your heartJeremiah 29:13
  • That they should seek the Lord, if so be they might have groped after him, and found him, though doubtless he be not far from every one of usActs 17:27

 

Connect The Testaments

August 16: No Fear and Full Confidence

Isaiah 33:1–17; Luke 11:37–12:21; Job 8:1–10

Jesus didn’t exactly follow social niceties as a dinner guest. Once again while dining with a Pharisee, He exposed the hypocrisy that was rampant among those religious leaders: “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but your inside is full of greediness and wickedness” (Luke 11:39). The “woes” He followed with challenged His host and, by extension, the Pharisees in general.

His boldness is a trait He wanted to pass on to His disciples: “But nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, and secret that will not be made known” (Luke 12:2). The gospel message will not be kept secret; the new kingdom is coming into being.

Jesus wanted the disciples to be fearless among people because it is God who is in charge, not the Pharisees; they had built up a false construct of authority. And although they may have exercised authority—they could kill and spread fear—they weren’t ultimately in charge.

God is in charge: “But I will show you whom you should fear: fear the one who has authority, after the killing, to throw you into hell! Yes, I tell you, fear this one! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten in the sight of God. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered! Do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Luke 12:5–7).

When we’re overwhelmed by rampant sin and evil around us—even in us—it’s comforting to maintain this sure knowledge. It is God who both judges and gives life. If we confess Jesus as God, we have nothing to fear. We can be bold in trials and have confidence in Him.

What confidence do you have in your trials? How can you place your trust in God rather than people?

REBECCA VAN NOORD

EZC

  • Woe to thee that spoilest, and wast not spoiled: and doest wickedly, and they did not wickedly against thee: when thou shalt cease to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled: when thou shalt make an end of doing wickedly, they shall do wickedly against thee. O Lord, have mercy upon us, we have waited for thee: be thou, which wast their arm in the morning, our help also in time of trouble. At the noise of the tumult, the people fled: at thine exalting the nations were scattered. And your spoil shall be gathered like the gathering of caterpillars: and he shall go against him like the leaping of grasshoppers. The Lord is exalted: for he dwelleth on high: he hath filled Zion with judgment and justice. And there shall be stability of the times, strength, salvation, wisdom, and knowledge: for the fear of the Lord shall be his treasure. Behold, their messengers shall cry without, and the ambassadors of peace shall weep bitterly. The paths are waste: the wayfaring man ceaseth: he hath broken the covenant: he hath contemned the cities: he regardeth no man. The earth mourneth and fainteth: Lebanon is ashamed, and hewn down: Sharon is like a wilderness, and Bashan is shaken and Carmel. Now will I arise, saith the Lord: now will I be exalted, now will I lift up myself. Ye shall conceive chaff, and bring forth stubble: the fire of your breath shall devour you. And the people shall be as the burning of lime: and as the thorns cut up, shall they be burnt in the fire. Hear, ye that are far off, what I have done, and ye that are near, know my power. The sinners in Zion are afraid: a fear is come upon the hypocrites: who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with the everlasting burnings? He that walketh in justice, and speaketh righteous things, refusing gain of oppression, shaking his hands from taking of gifts, stopping his ears from hearing of blood, and shutting his eyes from seeing evil, He shall dwell on high: his defense shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him, and his waters shall be sure. Thine eyes shall see the King in his glory: they shall behold the land far off. Isaiah 33:1–17
  • And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down at the table. And when the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that he had not first washed before dinner. And the Lord said to him, Indeed ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup, and of the platter: but the inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without, make that which is within also? Therefore, give alms of those things which you have, and behold, all things shall be clean unto you. But woe be to you, Pharisees: for ye tithe the mine and the rue, and all manner herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to have left the other undone. Woe be unto you, Pharisees: for ye love the uppermost seats in the Synagogues, and greetings in the markets. Woe be unto you, Scribes and Pharisees hypocrites: for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them, perceive not. Then answered one of the Lawyers, and said unto him, Master, thus saying thou puttest us to rebuke also. And he said, Woe be to you also, ye Lawyers, and said unto him, Master, thus saying thou puttest us to rebuke also. And he said, Woe be unto you also, ye Lawyers: for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe be to you: for ye build the sepulchers of the Prophets, and your fathers killed them. Truly ye bear witness, and allow the deeds of your fathers: for they killed them, and ye build their sepulchers. Therefore said the wisdom of God, I will send them Prophets and Apostles, and of them they shall slay, and persecute away, That the blood of all the Prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation, From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zechariah, which was slain between the altar and the Temple: verily I say unto you, it shall be required of this generation. Woe be unto you, Lawyers: for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that came in, ye forbade. And as he said these things unto them, the Scribes and Pharisees began to urge him sore, and to provoke him to speak of many things. Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something of his mouth, whereby they might accuse him. In the meantime, there gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, so that they trod one another: and he began to say unto his disciples first, Take heed to yourselves of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed: nothing hid, that shall not be known. Wherefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness, it shall be heard in the light: and that which ye have spoken in the ear, in secret places, shall be preached on the houses. And I say unto you, my friends, be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that are not able to do anymore. But I will forewarn you, whom ye shall fear: fear him which after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, him fear. Are not five sparrows bought for two farthings, and yet not one of them is forgotten before God? Yea, and all the hairs of your head are numbered: fear not therefore: ye are more of value than many sparrows. Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man confess also before the Angels of God. But he that shall deny me before men, shall be denied before the Angels of God. And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that shall blaspheme the holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven. And when they shall bring you unto the Synagogues, and unto the rulers and Princes, take no thought how, or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall speak. For the holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour, what ye ought to say. And one of the company said unto him, Master, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me. And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge, or a divider over you? Wherefore he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for though a man have abundance, yet his life standeth not in his riches. And he put forth a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth fruits plenteously. Therefore he thought with himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where I may lay up my fruits? And he said, This will I do, I will pull down my barns, and build greater, and therein will I gather all my fruits, and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years, live at ease, eat, drink, and take thy pastime. But God said unto him, O fool, this night will they fetch away thy soul from thee: then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided? So is he that gathereth riches to himself, and is not rich in God. Luke 11:37–12:21
  • Then answered Bildad the Shuhite, and said, How long wilt thou talk of these things? and how long shall the words of thy mouth be as a mighty wind? Doth God pervert judgment? or doth the Almighty subvert justice? If thy sons have sinned against him, and he hath send them into the place of their iniquity, Yet if thou wilt early seek unto God, and pray to the Almighty, If thou be pure and upright, then surely he will awake up unto thee, and he will make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous. And though thy beginning be small, yet thy latter end shall greatly increase. And though thy beginning be small, yet thy latter end shall greatly increase. Inquire therefore, I pray thee, of the former age, and prepare thyself to search of their fathers. (For we are but of yesterday, and are ignorant: for our days upon earth are but a shadow) Shall not they teach thee and tell thee, and utter the words of their heartJob 8:1–10