“I have set the Lord always before Me!”
This time I am a little early, but it will not hurt, because sometimes I am a little late.
For many, many years the Church of Christ has a good custom to write and to speak of the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ, prior to Good Friday. We name that period “the Passion weeks.”
The first week is March 11. Well, this writing comes before your face the 1st of March.
Our fathers often speak of an inviolate rule: Scripture interprets Scripture.
The above text is a product of the Holy Ghost, and the same Holy Ghost interprets it in Acts 2:25-31. So we are on safe ground.
Yes, David wrote the above text, but it is the Lord Jesus Christ who fulfilled it. David did indeed set the Lord before his face, but it is well to remember, that he did so with many shortcomings. But when we want to say something about the text we better remember that Jesus lived this text absolutely.
It is a terrible truth. Scripture tells us that Jesus is to hear terrible things in righteousness. I think that the above test lies at its foundation. Exactly because Jesus set the Lord always before His face did He learn terrible things in righteousness.
All the horror, suffering, amazement, experience of the curse, death and forsakenness of God came from that FACE!
Jesus was set in the midst of the world from the very beginning of His life to know, to learn, to experience terrible things, unheard of things, things that make us shudder when we hear the story that is ever new.
That Face of the Lord! Oh, Jesus knew that Face from the very beginning. That Face told Him the story of His life on earth, and that story was brought to His consciousness ever clearer as the days went by.
As a little boy of twelve years old He tells us what that Face has taught Him: “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?”
That Father’s business!
What is it?
It is the business of the strong right hand of Jehovah whereby He would scoop the whole Church out of the clutches of the devil, out of the depth of hell, out of the state of condemnation, from under the wrath of God!
And that business of Jehovah Christ was to make His own. He had to bring many sons and daughters to glory.
And all through the life (?) of Jesus Christ He studied that Face.
Did you note that question mark? I had almost written: “and all through the DEATH of Jesus Christ.” Do you understand?
That Face told Jesus that He had to die, die and die: again. He had to descend into the unfathomed depth of death, of eternal death. That Face told Him that He had to suffer . . . wait, let me let the fathers speak: “that my Lord Jesus Christ, by His inexpressible anguish, pains, terrors and hellish agonies, in which He was plunged during all His sufferings, but especially on the cross, hath delivered me from the anguish and torments of hell.”
Yes, we do not have to let the fathers speak: I know. You could find all the above, and more, from the pages of Holy Writ. What the fathers say is a synopsis. If I would let all the Scriptures speak I would have to transcribe the sermon of Jesus to the blessed sojourners of Emmaus. But I have to wait for a copy of that when the Judgment Day rolls around. Jesus began at Moses and all the prophets, (and) He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. What things? Listen again to Jesus our Lord: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?
Note that one word: OUGHT.
It has the same strength as another word which Christ often used: MUST.
That ought and that must the Lord learned from that FACE of my text.
No, I do not know exactly what that Face said every day and every night. But in general I do know. That Face led Jesus deeper, ever deeper in the curse and wrath of God, in the depth of the hellish sufferings of death. And while He went downward, that Face kept saying to Hi: Love Me! Do not walk away from My Face! Learn obedience in the things You are suffering, My Son!
And Jesus kept saying: I always set the Lord before Me!
And that continued day and night.
Some nights Jesus could not stand it indoors. Some nights when it was still dark He would arise from His bed, and don His clothes. Then He would walk ever so quietly out of the house, through the streets, out of the village, and wend His way to the desert, and fall into the dust among the rocks.
And He would pray and weep.
Read Hebrews 5:7, 8: “Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared; though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered . . . .”
Those things which He suffered He learned from that ever present Face of Jehovah before Him.
In the midst of the tornados of God’s wrath that ever howled around and within Him, He expressly heard that Face say: My Son, love Me! Learn obedience in the horrible things You suffer!
And Jesus learned all His life.
He atoned for you and me, my brother and sister!
The result is paying the price for our sin. And that is hell, the experience of, and the sustaining of all the wrath of God.
But that’s not all.
The devils and the wicked will also pay the price of sin: they all will pay and pay and pay in hell and damnation. But they never atone.
Atone means that I pay because I love so very much. Jesus exhibited the obedience, motivated by sweet love of Jehovah. Standing on the bottomless bottom of hell, Jesus kept on saying with all His heart and mind and soul and strength: I Love Thee, O My Father! That is atonement.
Read a little further in the text: “because He is at My right hand, I shall not be moved.”
Oh yes, Salvation is of the Lord.
Jesus in all His hellish agony with the Face of God ever before Him, is the manifestation of the loving-kindness of our God.
Therein God attained unto the only purpose of the Universe, Providence, Regeneration of all things, the New Kingdom, all things: to show that He is so worthy to be praised unto everlasting.
Yes, David also said: “I have set the Lord always before Me!”
And yet, there were lapses. Perhaps. I do not fully know. God knows. Perhaps he even set that Jehovah before his face when he fornicated and murdered. I do not know.
But in general it is true. God’s Holy Spirit does not lie. He cannot lie.
And because of it David is also happy at the time I am writing. David is singing and playing on the harp of God, while he is waiting for you, my brother and sister.
I have often heard men and women say: I have set the Lord always before me. Or in different words, meaning the same thing.
And it is also true that we ought to say it and mean it, and do it.
There is a text that says: “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps.” I Pet. 2:21.
No, it does not and it cannot mean that you should suffer for the elect, and so redeem them. First, it is done already: all God’s elect are already redeemed. Second, you cannot do it, even if you had a million of eternities at your command.
But it does mean that you should set the Face of Jehovah before you, and study that Face, listen to that Face, and obey that Face, and do whatever that Face commands you. For the good of the church, for the good of Jehovah, even though it lead you through much suffering, even through death.
But we are a sorry lot.
I have often heard people say something like the text of David, and sorry to say, it was very evidently a lie. And that is terrible. Better not to say it.
Some say it and do the very opposite. They crawl away somewhere and try to destroy the Church which God and Jesus loved so much. But they say: I have prayed to my God! I have the best interest of our church at heart. But no, it is evidently a lie. Their works condemn them.
And that works weariness for the true and the upright.
How do you think Paul felt when everywhere they, that is, the Church, opposed the Gospel of Jesus Christ? And called it a sect that was spoken against everywhere?
How did the Apostles feel when, of course, after calling upon the Name of Jehovah, the Sanhedrin scourged them for doing what God’s Face demanded?
How did Luther feel when fleeing Worms? And Calvin, in the holes and caves of the mountains, fleeing from the praying Catholics?
Don’t you think that the Remonstrants prayed to Jehovah? And all the heretics of all the ages?
Even Paul murdered the Church of God, thinking he did a service to Jehovah. Reason why he later called himself the “chief of sinners.”
Ah, beloved, be simple. Be like a little child: upright, true, without partiality and without hypocrisy.
And stand before that attractive, beautiful, comely Face of Jehovah. Listen to that Face, obey that Face, suffer for that Face, weep before that Face. He has told me that He saves all your tears in His bottles.
A blessed thought! There comes a Judgment Day: all the crooked will be made straight! Amen.