In these days of wars and rumors of war “there be many that say, who will shew us any good?’’
Can you imagine the inhabitant of Warsaw? And in a lesser degree all the inhabitants of Europe?
The question, pregnant with abject fear, expressive of insecurity, is pitiful even apart from war and rumor of war. But how much more does it speak to us now of the insecurity of the worldlings.
The world has no evening song. There is the wail of the night.
And the only difference is the difference of faith. The world has no faith.
Did it ever occur to you that you need faith to both lay you down in peace and sleep? O, indeed, you may undress yourself and fall down in bed. Presently your regular breathing tells me that you sleep. But then you have sinned. That is not the retiring that is very righteousness and holiness. Retiring is also a work which ought to be performed to the glory of the Almighty.
To begin with: you should sing your evening song.
You have lived during the day that precedes the evening. You were in the midst of the things that make up your work-a-day world. You have come in contact with the saint and the sinner. Yours were the opportunities, the time and space, the talents and gifts, the sweetness of blessings on every side.
All this certainly calls for your evaluation before God’s countenance. For it was God who prevented you at every step. He talks to you in daily bread or cooling drink. It was God Who prevented you when you were in the midst of “the sons of men who turned your glory into shame.” He enlarged you and He set apart that was godly for Himself.
You know, it is entirely salutary to: “Commune with your own heart upon your bed.” It is not good if we just lay down and sleep because we are so very, very tired. Reviewing the day you should commune with your own heart where God dwells.
Also in the day which is now far spent the question arose: Who will shew us any good? And you have answered it to the good pleasure of heaven.
And here is the answer.
Lord, lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us.
God’s countenance is His revelation.
God Himself, that is, His Essence cannot be seen by us. And we may never pray for that sight. No one can see God and live. That is true now; that is true eternally. Only the self-revelation of God can be seen by us. When God speaks of the sight of his own glory He speaks of the unapproachable light or of His eternity. We must needs stand in the cleft oi the rock.
His revelation is His countenance. The Lord’s face you have seen in the day when the sun arose and bathed the earth in golden splendor. It was the countenance of God when you marveled at the silvery splendor of a night that was lighted by rays of the moon. You listened, for day unto day uttered speech and night unto night shewed knowledge. It was the face of God when the table groaned under the goodly load of food and drink. And even your little children gave testimony in their hurried prayer. Moreover, it was God that prevented you even before you awoke, because all through the night He preserved your clothing and shelter that must be yours in order to be “at ease.” And when the manifold manifestations of a rich life unfolded themselves within you and round about you, they were the sum total of the Face of God. They are the light of His countenance.
Surely, when you review the day, your day, every day, and see just the things which I enumerated above, even then you may say: “Thou hast put gladness in my heart!”
But then, I only stated a few things and these things are also very inferior when I compare them with the far greater things of His everlasting Kingdom. No, it was not Sunday; it need not necessarily refer to various activities that directly remind us of the Church institute. Ah, the lifting up of God’s countenance upon us refers to much more and much more exalted things than just your place in the church institute. It means a place in God’s heart.
For the Face of God is also Christ Jesus the Lord.
God’s countenance is His Self-revelation to us, we said.
Well, that self-revelation of God is wonderful in “nature.” But the beauty of nature fades when compared with the beauty of His face in Jesus Christ the Beloved. You see, only when you see this wondrous difference are you able to understand the strange second clause of the verse partly quoted above. I said: “Thou hast put gladness in my heart.” But the second clause reads: “more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.” That second clause is very strange. Imagine: here is A and B. A receives a hundred times more money and possessions of earthy things than B. And yet B sings: Thou gavest me more gladness than A. Is that not strange.
The answer is already stated above. This man B has seen the comparative values of the earth and of God’s everlasting kingdom.
Oh, if only God gives Himself to you in the Son of His right hand, then: “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold; and there shall no herd be in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation!”
Do you not see that both Habakkuk and David mean the same thing? Habakkuk will sing in the midst of emptiness and want. David has more gladness in his heart than those who gloat over bursting corn-cribs and overflowing wine-vats. And both Habakkuk and David act so strangely because they saw the Face of God in Jesus. It’s life His Face to see!
And the background of this wondrous gladness in the heart of the saint is expressed as follows: “The
Lord hath set apart him that is godly for Himself.” A little clearer expressed in the Dutch: De Heere heeft Zich een gunstgenoot afgezonderd.” How wonderful! Oh, “‘t Moch gebeuren!”
Here is the full picture: This gunstgenoot is by nature a child of wrath, exactly like the others that shall go down in deepest night of the gloom of second death. They are all alike for they are all comprised under the sin of Adam and his guilt following. If God should act with us according to our deserts we would also rejoice in a vat of wine rather than in the beauteous Face of God. But here is the picture again: God took him, that is, His gunstgenoot and He placed him apart. He called him through the power of the eternal Light. He illuminated him by the radiant light of His love-life and by the glory of that radiance he saw his own sin and cried to God: Oh God, be merciful unto me, the sinner! And God heard out of His holy heaven. And God continued to separate him in his generations, in the church, in the world. Continually he is set apart as the peculiar treasure of God. That is the process of sanctification. He was separated from evil and consecrated to goodness and all virtue. He became like unto a dove decked with gold.
And there he stands and lives, God beaming continually upon him and decking him with the finest gold of Ophir. Which is the clothing of salvation and everlasting beauty. “He clotheth the meek!” That is part of your song. So I know you agree with me.
In prospect he beholds the beauties that abide.
Of them he sings:
When I in righteousness at last
Thy glorious Face shall see,
When all the weary night is past,
And I awake with Thee
To view the glories that abide,
Then, then I shall be satisfied.
Small wonder that this saint bursts forth in righteous indignation when the wicked sons of men turn his very glory into shame. His glory is the God of his righteousness. You might translate this in New Testament language and then you have the bruised Son of God on Golgotha. That is the God of our righteousness. And the wicked world always turns the glory of Golgotha into shame. They count the blood of the New Testament impure and they trample under foot the Son of God. How horrible. All such work is characterized by David as: “the love of vanity and the seeking after leasing.” This last phrase means the seeking after the lie. And such activity you see round about you in the world, even in the world today. They make a scoff of the Son and try to erect their own towers of Babel. They will have nothing of the gift of grace and seek to redeem themselves by the fruit of hell; and that is the lie. They seek the lie and find it. Poor souls! Having found the lie, it will infect them; it will poison them; it will corrupt them so much that finally they shall fit in the place that is the bathos of horror and despair. They will be fitting companions of devils. How horrible!
Instead: Stand in awe and sin not!
Certainly the world coming in contact with the church of the ages will be without excuse. They have heard time and again in varieties of expression: Stand in awe of the Cross! Stand in awe of so great salvation! Stand in awe of God Who is terrible in His wrath! And sin not!
Contrary to that the saints become children that will not lie. More and more they see the Face of God in the cross of Golgotha and sing. They see that Face and love it:
Voor U wil ik lijden; voor U wil ik stri j den. . . .
Voor U wil ik d’aarde doorgalmen van lof!
Ah, it will take an endless eternity to thank our God for His unspeakable gift of Jesus, our righteousness!
Can you now see that sleeping, nay, the act of retiring of an evening is not simply the laying aside of your dress and falling on your bed?
Nay, you will commune upon your own bed with your heart. You will commune and recount the glories that abide.
Does the world then multiply their anxious and despairing questing: Who will show us any good? Then you make answer: But we see Jesus; indeed He is sprinkled with the blood, but we see Him exalted in glory. And where He is, I will be.
Oh my God, Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that. . . .
Our Father, now I can go to sleep.
Now I can lay me down in peace and sleep.
For Thou makest me to dwell in safety.
Safe in Warsaw. Safe in the midst of the sons of men that try and turn my glory into shame. Safe from all alarm. For there is a dwelling of God. It is in the New Jerusalem. And Jesus prepared my place.
I can safely lay me down in peace and sleep for I have seen Golgotha.
Slowly I fall away in soothing unconsciousness. Soothing, for I am safe in the arms of Jesus!