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RETROSPECTION

Beloved in the Lord:

I have been musing upon the ways of the Lord with a poor sinner like me, and this persuasion has come upon me:

“Though dark be my way, since He is my Guide,
‘Tis mine to obey, ‘tis His to provide;
Though cisterns be broken, and creatures all fail,
The word He has spoken shall surely prevail.”

I look back over my life, and trace here and there, where an arm of flesh failed me, when I leaned upon it for support and succor, and cisterns, in which I thought I had treasured up my supplies, failed me when I went to them for relief.

“Though cisterns be broken, and creatures all fail.” They do (Jer. 2:13); yes, the best of them can not reach our case, apply the healing balm, and yield us that consolation that our souls need in our dire straits.

The Psalmist exclaimed, “Refuse failed me; no man cared for my soul.” No one can take care of us but our God. He shall supply all our needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. The children of God have trials and afflictions attending their earthly sojourn, and these differ very much; each one has his lot and measure as appointed by our God. “He performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with Him” (Job 24:13). And they all have exercises of soul in things pertaining to God such as the world knows nothing about. What shall we do in times of trouble? “Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.”

The Lord well knows us; He knows our down-sitting and our uprising, and is acquainted with all our ways; there is not a thought in our heart, but it is altogether known to Him with whom we have to do.

Oh, dear child of God, how sweet are the words of our dear Savior, “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings? and not one of them is forgotten before God. But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7). Oh, to be drawn to put our trust in Him. The words He has spoken shall surely prevail. His Word is settled in heaven; His faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds. Perhaps, child of God, you are like myself, seldom without some burden; and our worst times are when we imagine to get along without the Lord our God. When we are not sufficiently humbled to find all our dependence is in Him, and that our soul’s business is to be ever praying to Him to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Ah, sometimes we are not telling our Almighty Friend, our Heavenly Father, our troubles. Satan and our unbelieving hearts are saying, He does not care for such things; these earthly trials are beneath Him. He will not incline His ear to your praying to Him about such things. Thus we are turned aside from our God, our Heavenly Father, and think to struggle along; to devise this and that, to shoulder all our affairs, and we get into rough places, into sorer and more vexations. Ah, we become rebellious, envious, fretful, and we are found wandering away from the Lord. We think God loves others better than ourselves. He gives them more smiles, more good words, an easier and happier path. We murmur, “Against me is He turned all the day” (Lam. 3:3). And in our evil, unbelieving heart, instead of confiding, loving, trustful thoughts in which we unbosom all our troubles unto Him, and seek His graciousness, we have hard, unkind thoughts, vain imaginings have us in captivity, and we are wretched outcasts from our God. Perhaps you are not so contemptibly mean. Yours is an easier path?

Early last Sunday morning I was reading the Scriptures, much cast down in my mind, many things oppressed my spirit, and all my courage was gone; forebodings of evil weighed down my soul amidst all my endeavors to read the Scriptures and meditate upon them. Well, I was a poor thing, abased, despised, not able to shake off my troubles, not able to rise out of my despondency. I could not quench the tormentors of my soul. I have trials now; not imaginary ones. I expect while here in the body, to have them; afflictions, griefs, warfare, have been my lot, and will continue to be mine in such measure as it pleases the Lord; and I do not and I can not pray to God to spare me, to exempt me from trials, and conflicts, and sufferings such as He has appointed us unto (1 Thes. 3:3). But I find myself in my soul’s adversities often weak. I am not sufficient to sustain them. I am feelingly sinking under them.

Well, last Sunday morning, some hours before the time of preaching, I was in this burdened, cast down state, and in my unbelief plagued with evil forebodings. But there came quietly and comfortably into my mind these words, “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jer. 29:11). I turned to these words, and read the record of the circumstances of Israel, to whom they were first spoken, and I saw they were spoken to the captives in Babylon, exiles from their much loved land, whom the Lord had sent into the land of the Chaldeans, “for their good” (Jer. 24:5). Their thoughts were that the Lord’s thoughts concerning them were surely evil. By the rivers of Babylon they sat down, and wept when they remembered Zion. They hanged their harps upon the willows, and their songs were hushed. How could they sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? Their temporal adversities were bitter; they had been carried away to Babylon, driven like herds of cattle by Nebuchadnezzar’s conquering army. Oh, what losses, privations, miseries were theirs! And then, as those who feared the Lord, what searching of heart; what deep providences of their God they had to ponder. Why all this? How will it all end? Had they anything to base expectation upon? Those who had taken them captives refused to let them go (Jer. 50:33-34).

They were not moved by their tears and miseries; but held them in relentless captivity; and they were plagued with soul-burdening foreboding. But the Lord is mindful of His own, and speaks comfortingly by the mouth of His prophet, “For thus saith the Lord: That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon, I will visit you, and perform My good word towards you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then, shall ye call upon Me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord; and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord, and I will bring you again unto the place which I have caused you to be carried away captive.” All of which the Lord brought to pass. (See Daniel 9, Ezra 1, and Zech. 1:12, 17).

As I mused upon this, my heart was moved, my faith, my trust, my hope revived, my eyes filled with tears, and I felt so humbled because I had doubted, because of the many, many wrongs in me. And my heart went forth in love, in trust, in hope in the Lord, for He saith, “I know the thoughts that I think toward you.” In my infirmity, my unbelief, in my discouraged, fretful condition, I had been picturing the Lord as one indifferent, as one with a hard heart, for, why did He not give me an easier lot? Why these thorns in the flesh? Why these everyday trials under which I feel I am staggering, ready to halt? Ah, it is wretchedness to have wrong thoughts. And damnable, sinful, to have wrong thoughts of our precious and all-wise God, our Heavenly Father. But He saith, “I know the thoughts that I think toward you.” I was melted, humbled, contrite in heart in a moment, and felt trustful love spring up and glow into ardent flames, and my heart said, “I see, all shall end well, though I do not see how”. Oh, I chided myself that I ever should have wrong thoughts of Jehovah’s thoughts toward me. We do not know the thoughts of the Lord; indeed we only know them as He declares them in His providence and grace. The Holy Ghost, the Comforter, in that Scripture to my heart, soothed, refreshed and strengthened me. Oh, truly the Lord is the lifter up of mine head (Psalm 3: 3).

Whatever, then, may be the path that is our lot, let the conflicts, afflictions, vexations and sorrows be what they may, they shall only be such as our God hath decreed, and they shall “all work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” It is mine to believe, and mine sometimes to sing the words:

“Sovereign Ruler of the skies!
Ever gracious, ever wise;
All my times shall ever be
Ordered by Thy wise decree.”

David said, “My times are in Thy hand” (Psalm 31:15). How good this is, for the Lord our God is holy and just, merciful and gracious. My times are not in my own power, not in the hands of men, not in the power of Satan. “If God be for us, who can be against us?”

“He shows me that all shall end well;
His blood is my prevalent plea,
And through His rich grace I believe
He saved a sinner like me.”

Believers are called upon, as in the case of Job, to “see the end of the Lord, that He is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (James 5:11).

Does your way, dear child of God, appear to be rugged? Is your strength small? God is mindful of you. Go and tell our dear Savior all about it; seek His counsel and support, and though cisterns be broken and creatures all fail, you will find Him “faithful and true”, “very pitiful and of tender mercy”; for He saith, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me” (Psalm 50:15). God will redeem His people from all adversities, and will at length bring them through, to dwell forever with Himself in everlasting bliss. This is the highest of our “expected end”. We shall be conformed to the image of God’s dear Son, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, and immortal and incorruptible we shall reign in life by One, Jesus Christ our Redeemer, our Husband, our eternal Friend. Then, though rough and dark at times be our way, though trials and conflicts with sin and Satan be long and bitter, shall we not sing:

“My name from the palms of His hands
Eternity will not erase;
Impressed on His heart it remains,
In marks of indelible grace.

Yes, I to the end shall endure,
As sure as the earnest is given,
More happy, but not more secure,
The glorified spirits in heaven.”

“I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

Through the floods and flames He will bring us (Isa. 43:2; Psalm 66:42). In quietness and gladness we shall enter our desired haven (Psalm 107:30). An abundant entrance shall be given us into the everlasting kingdom, for God hath called us unto His kingdom and glory (1 Thes. 2:12). He hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus (1 Peter 5:10). This is higher, far more blessed than by salvation reinstating us, as the offering of Adam, in uprightness in the Garden of Eden. Not only are the elect saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation, washed in Emmanuel’s blood, justified by His grace, clothed in Christ’s righteousness, but they are predestinated unto the obtaining of the salvation that is in our Lord Jesus Christ with eternal glory (2 Tim. 2:10). He was received up into glory (2 Tim. 3:10). And, are Christ and His Church one? He the Head, and they the members of His body, the fullness of Him who filleth all in all? Then,

“Since Christ is my Head, with joy I remember,
His body to which with affection I glow;
Although I’m the most insignificant member,
Can’t be full without me; ah, never! oh, no!”

“Our life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory.” Christ and His Bride are so joined He will not dwell in glory and leave her behind.

“Oh, I have seen the day
When with a single word,
God helping me to say
My trust is in the Lord.
My soul has quelled a thousand foes,
Fearless of all that could oppose;
But unbelief, self-will, self-righteousness and pride,
How often do they steal my weapons from my side!
Yet David’s Lord, and Gideon’s Friend,
Will help His servant to the end!”

FREDERICK W. KEENE,
501 Cleveland St., Raleigh, NC

THE LONE PILGRIM,
Volume 7, No. 82,
October 1929