Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.”
Very important is the little word “then” which introduces this verse of Holy Writ!
It shows that what is said in our verse is occasioned by what precedes. It indicates a contrast—a contrast between the righteous and the wicked in Israel. It marks the difference in reaction between the pious and the ungodly to the same condition prevailing in the land of Canaan. While the ungodly mocked and derided God, then the pious feared and remembered His Name. This little adverb also points up the time in which that which the text and context describes took place. It was a time of great need. Israel was suffering under the mighty hand of God and His judgments. It was then that the pious spoke one to another and thought upon God’s Name.
As we gather in our respective places of worship on the approaching Thanksgiving Day, it will hardly do to compare the situation of our time with that of the people of God in that day. Ours can hardly be said to be a time marked by devastating famine and dire want. In the year which has so swiftly gone by the heavens opened to give abundant showers and sunshine to the planted seed. The harvest has been plentiful. The wheels of industry have increased their revolutions. Instead of want, most of us have been and will continue to bathe even in luxury. How different it was in the land of Israel at the time of our text. The heavens were shut. What did not die on the ear, the grasshopper and the caterpillar devoured. The barns were empty, and man and beast groaned under the mighty hand of God. What was once a land flowing with milk and honey had become an arid wilderness.
Yet, though the darkness in the land of Israel was of a different nature, there is a similarity between the time then and now. O, it is true, we do not suffer famine and want, but the darkness of God’s judgments hangs heavy over the world of our day as it did then. The horrors of war and the horrors of famine are alike horsemen of the apocalypse bringing death and destruction on earth. Riots and disobedience, anarchy and revolution, murder and stealing and the accompanying devastations so prevalent in our time are not merely the indicators of the depravity so characteristic of the world of our day, but they are the judgments of God, which precede the final pouring out of His wrath upon the wicked.
And is not the reaction to these judgments the same as in the day of Malachi? Do not the wicked proceed in their wickedness unabated? Do not the carnal murmurers in the church still say that the proud are happy and that it does not pay to serve the Lord? And is there not yet the remnant of pious ones who, beholding the same things, speak to one another, walking in the fear of God, and who remember His Name with thanksgiving?
Remembering with thanksgiving!
That name of God wherewith He so uniquely appears to His people!
Jehovah, the I AM THAT I AM! It signifies that He is the eternal One, without beginning and without end. He is the self-sufficient One, the independent God. He is the uncaused Cause. He did not become, but He always was.
It signifies that He is the unchangeable One. And therefore the faithful One. “I Jehovah change not, therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” He is the All-Wise God, Who knows the end from the beginning.
Jehovah, the Almighty God!
To Whom belongs all strength and power in heaven and earth. Who holds the valleys in His hands and metes out the heavens with a span. Who holds the stars, the sun and the moon in their courses, and lays the seas in basins that they cannot exceed their bounds. Who gives life to all His creatures; and when He withholds His hand they die.
The Righteous and the Holy God! Just and good is He!
The central revelation of Whom is Jesus, the Son of God, our Saviour! Through Whom we came to know Jehovah as our God, and God as Jehovah. Through Whom also God was pleased to reveal, and realizes His everlasting covenant. In history He did this on the cross and in the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Subjectively He does this through the Spirit of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in our heart; the Spirit whereby we cry: Abba, Father.
Remembering that Name!
That is, meditating upon it, making much account of it, to esteem and prize it. That the pious thought upon Jehovah’s Name was no mere abstraction. That is, they did not simply see Jehovah as the cause of the darkness and of their trouble. Nor did they simply conclude that He was able and powerful enough to change the conditions in which they found themselves if He saw fit. It is possible, you know, to think of God that way. Perhaps we too are often guilty of this. When there is war and all kinds of trouble we are liable to exclaim: This, is a judgment of God. Or, we consider objectively that Jehovah sits on. His throne in the heavens ruling over and controlling all things after the counsel of His will. While all our thoughts of Him are nothing more than an intellectual, mental observation concerning Him. But not so did the pious think upon His Name.
No, this thinking was and still must be something much more concrete. That Name of Jehovah is the object of our love and esteem. We bow before it and worship. We acknowledge that in the revelation of that Name Jehovah is good to us, even when we are required to pass under suffering and want.
This is to be done in every circumstance—in prosperity, but also in adversity. In times of prosperity it is true, we are liable to feel independent and self-sufficient, and thus forget that Name. While on the other hand, in prosperous days it would seem that it would not be difficult to rejoice and be thankful. But in times of adversity it is often different. Then it is that we feel the need of calling on His Name and remembering it, while at the same time it seems easier to rebel and murmur—finding fault with our plight and concluding that the way of the Lord is not right.
But true thanksgiving is the acknowledgment of Jehovah’s Name in all things! It never depends on material abundance. It rather depends on the fear of God. And it seeks to acknowledge that the Name of Jehovah is good in all our ways.
They that thought upon Jehovah’s Name feared the Lord! Not a fear of fright is the fear of the pious. Such is rather the fear of the ungodly. When God’s judgments are upon them they cower, and will even call to the rocks and mountains to fall on them, that they may be annihilated before the face of Him with Whom they have to do. Not so do the godly conduct themselves before the face of God. They tremble, but it is because they stand in awe of Him. They fear, but it is because they love Him.
That the pious feared the Lord implies that in the day of trouble they trembled in holy reverence. They walked carefully. They admitted that because Jehovah their God is holy and just in all His ways they deserved to perish as the ungodly because of their sin and unworthiness. It means that, acknowledging their unworthiness of being called His people, they implored His grace. It implies that in prosperous times they with meekness rejoice in thankful acknowledgment of Jehovah’s Name. They did not look for reason of prosperity in themselves, but saw it all in the light of Jehovah’s mercy toward them, and in His covenant promise to bless them.
This being the manner in which they sought to remember Jehovah’s Name, it can also be easily understood how they sought one another and spake often to one another.
The pious sought the company of the pious, and in their company spoke often to one another as they thought upon Jehovah’s Name. Not just on a certain day, a Thanksgiving or a Prayer Day, perhaps suggested by the carnal who seek Jehovah’s face only for bread, or who when they are afraid will require a special prayer meeting to ask Jehovah to stop the war or cause the famine to cease—not so and for that reason did the pious come often together. Nor did the pious gather with the wicked. Rather, because the pious saw the blackness of God’s judgments and they feared before Him, and because they saw the carnality of the wicked in Israel, they sought the company of the God-fearing and spake often one to another.
Blessed company of the saints!
How different it is to dwell with those who seek the Lord only for bread! Who murmur when all things appear to be against them. Who can be “thankful” only when they revel in the abundance of material wealth. Who seek earthly things only to satisfy their lust.
How blessed are they who seek the company of those who fear the Lord! How lovely it is to abide with them who think upon Jehovah’s Name!
And the Lord also counts them blessed!
Their blessedness consists, first of all, in the fact that Jehovah also dwells with them. How else could He hear their conversation? In their company He pricks up His ears to listen in when they speak to one another. He takes note of what they say, and considers their thoughts, the thoughts of their hearts as they flow out in words—words which have respect to His holy Name, and which clearly show that His fear is in their hearts.
Indeed, Jehovah dwells with those who fear Him. Far is He from the godless. He despises their very image. He holds them in contempt. His only thought concerning them is that they may be destroyed forever. But the thoughts and words of the pious are His delight. He dwells so close to them that not one thought or word concerning Him will be missed or forgotten. He makes a recording of it.
A book of remembrance was written before Him!
O, how blessed are those who fear Him!
He records their confessions of unworthiness. He takes note of their prayers of repentance. He remembers their expressions of gratitude for all His loving kindnesses over them as they come together to remind one another of the saving strength of His right arm.
Make no mistake about it! This is not simply a figurative description to impress us with the fact that somehow Jehovah takes notice of His people.
Indeed, He has such a book of remembrance! Not, you understand, because He is liable to forget them, or that somehow because their thoughts and words are many some of them may get lost. But because He wants all to see and hear, the wicked, the devils, the angels, and all the host of the righteous redeemed, He has a book. Presently He will open this book and read from it. Then it shall become plain to all that the Lord loves the righteous in whom His fear dwelt, and who out of that fear served Him—who, even in the days when they suffered want under His providential hand, were able to thank and exalt His Name.
Then shall He reveal to all that the thanksgiving of those who feared Him was acceptable in His holy sight.
And they shall abide with Him eternally!