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THOUGHTS OF PEACE AND NOT OF EVIL

“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).

As I was thinking of the pathway of the called of God the following verse came into my mind, and afforded me some satisfying contemplations:

“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 looked back over my life and traced 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 my supplies, failed me when I went to them for relief. “Though cisterns be broken, and creatures all fail.” They do, and even the best of them are not able to reach our case, afford the healing balm, and yield us that consolation that our souls need in our dire straits. The Psalmist exclaimed, “Refuge failed me, no man cared for my soul.” No one can take care of us but our God. He shall supply all our need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

“Though cisterns be broken and creatures all fail,
The word he has spoken shall surely prevail.”

The children of God have cares and trials and afflictions attending their earthly sojourn, and these differ very much: each one has that lot and measure appointed by God. “He performeth the thing that is appointed for me; and many such things are with Him” (Job 24:13). Yes, and the chosen of God all have exercises of soul in things pertaining to God that the world knows nothing of. What shall we do in time of trouble? “Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.” He so well knows us; He knows our down-sittings 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. And, saith our 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, we are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7).

Oh to be drawn to put our trust in Him! “The word He has spoken shall prevail.” His word is settled in heaven, His faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds. Oh for that trustful heart to walk with God, to tell Him all our weakness, our waywardness, our trials, our fears! Oh to have a heart bowed at His footstool to implore His guidance, support, and consolation! Ah, beloved of God, we are seldom without some burden; and our worst times are when we imagine to get along without our God. When we are not humbled sufficiently to find all our dependence is in Him, and that it is our souls business to be ever praying to Him to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Ah, sometimes we are telling our Almighty Friend, our heavenly Father, our troubles. Satan, and our unbelieving hearts are saying He does not care for such things, they are beneath Him, He would not give ear to me praying to Him about such things. Thus, we are turned aside from our God, “our Father which art in heaven,” and think to struggle along, to devise this and that, to shoulder all our own affairs; and we get into rough places into sorer and more hardening vexations. Ah, we become rebellious, fretful, and we are found wandering far off from the Lord. We think of others, and become envious, jealous, and conclude God loves them better than ourselves. He gives them more smiles, more good words, and an easier path. And we murmur, “Against me He is turned all the day;” and in our evil, unbelieving heart, instead of confiding, loving, trustful thoughts causing us to unbosom all our troubles unto Him, to seek His graciousness in our behalf, we have hard thoughts of God, vain imaginings have us in captivity, and we are wretched, wandering outcasts from our God. Perhaps, child of God, you have an easier path than this!

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, there was I, a poor thing, abased, despised, not able to rise up out of my despondency. I could not quench the torments of my soul. I have trials just now, not imaginary ones. I expect, while here in the body, to have afflictions, griefs and warfare, they have been my lot and will continue to be in such measure as it pleases the Lord, and I do not, I cannot pray to God to spare me, to exempt me from trials and conflicts and sufferings such as He has appointed us unto (1 Thess. 3:3). Well, last Sunday morning, some hours before the time of preaching, I was burdened and cast down, and in my unbelief, plagued with evil forebodings. But the Comforter, the Holy Ghost came so quietly and comfortingly into my mind with 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 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? (Psa. 36). 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 and miseries were theirs!

And then as those who feared the Lord, what searchings 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 captive refused to let them go (Jer. 50:53-54). They were not moved by their tears and miseries; but held them in relentless captivity, and they were plagued with soul-burdening forebodings. But the Lord is mindful of His own, and speaks to them comfortingly by the mouth of His prophet. “For thus saith the Lord, that after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit 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 see 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 nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord, and I will bring you again unto the place which I caused you to be carried away captive.” All of which the Lord brought to pass (see Dan. 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 felt, oh so humble because that I had doubted, because of many, many wrong things 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 have been picturing the Lord as one indifferent, as one with a hard heart for why does He not give me an easier lot? Why these thorns in the flesh? Yes, I have been staggering like a drunken man, and have been at my wits’ end (Psa. 107:27), “ready to halt” (Psa. 38:17). Ah, it is wretchedness to have wrong thoughts! Ah, it is damnable, sinful to have wrong thoughts of our gracious and all wise God, our heavenly Father. But He saith, “I know the thoughts that I think toward you.” Oh! I was melted, humbled, contrite in heart in a moment, and I felt trustful love spring up and glow into ardent flames, and I see all shall end well though I do not see how, and I chided myself that I should ever 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, and fulfills them in His providence and grace in the gospel of Christ. That scripture was assuredly spoken to my heart, and soothed, refreshed and strengthened me, and truly the Lord is the Lifter-up of mine head (Psa. 3:3).

Whatever then, may be the path that is our lot, let the buffettings, conflicts, afflictions, vexations and sorrows be what they may, they shall only he 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 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” (Psa. 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 that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things” (Rom. 8:31-36).

“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.”

In the case of Job believers are called upon to see the end of the Lord, that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy (James 5:11). That was the thought of the Lord toward Job in all his afflictions. “I know the thoughts that I think toward you.” Job did not know them, and had many evil thoughts over the matter, and uttered some peevish sayings, but Jehovah opened his ears to discipline, and spoke to him out of the whirl-wind and in the end Job exclaims, “Behold, I am vile: what shall I answer thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth.”

Does your path, dear child of God, appear to be rugged? Is your strength small? God, I am persuaded, is mindful of you. Go and tell our dear Savior all about it, seek His counsel and support, and though cisterns are broken and creatures all fail, you will find Him “faithful and true” (Rev. 3:14). “Very pitiful and of tender mercy,” and He saith, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble, I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me” (Psa. 50:15). God will redeem His people from all adversities, and at length bring them through to dwell forever with Himself in everlasting bliss. This, in the highest, is our “expected end.” We shall be conformed to the image of God’s dear Son, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Emmanuel and immortal and6 incorruptible we shall reign in life by One, Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, our Husband, our eternal, Friend. Then, though rough at times, be our way; though trials, 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 of heaven.”

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

Through floods and flames He will bring us (Isa. 42:2; Psa. 66:12). An abundant entrance shall be given us into the everlasting kingdom, for God hath called us unto His kingdom and glory (1 Thess. 2:12). He hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus. In quietness and gladness we shall enter our desired haven (Psa. 107:30). This is higher, far more blessed than by salvation re-instating us as the offspring 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 (1 Thess. 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 – this with joy I remember,
His body to which affection I glow,
Although I’m the most insignificant member,
Can’t be full without me; Ah never! Ah no!”

Their life is hid with Christ in God, and when Christ who is their life shall appear, they shall appear with Him in glory, He will bring them all to glory (Heb. 2:10). Christ and His elect are so joined He will not dwell in glory and leave them behind.

These are the thoughts of our God, they stand fast forever, the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. How blessed are the moments given us by the Holy Spirit, when our souls are declared in the gospel of Christ!

While our hearts in adoring wonder and love are musing upon them we shall be saying, “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them they are more in number than the sand: when I awake I am still with thee” (Psa. 139:17-18).

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!
But David’s Lord, and Gideon’s Friend,
Will help His servant to the end.

Jehovah, in the everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure, has provided for His chosen ones for time and eternity, and the love, faithfulness and omnipotence of God will bring us off more than conquerors and give us our expected end. This sweet, comforting, glorious expected end is all declared in the gospel of Christ. God hath sealed us with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession unto the praise of His glory.

“Then shall the church, the Lamb’s own bride,
Both crowned and seated by His side,
Outshine the sun’s meridian ray;
While Jesus smiling at the sight,
Shall then with a supreme delight
The travail of His soul survey.”

I am yours in Christ’s gospel, and companion in tribulation.
FREDERICK W. KEENE

OLD FAITH CONTENDER,
February 15, 1952