What a sweet sounding word when you are weary and worn! O, to be left alone, to be free from any disturbance, to relax and be with your thoughts! How disturbing when you have prepared yourself for a night’s sleep to be called to answer the insistent and merciless clamor of the telephone bell! O, to be left alone, to have no troubles, no cares and anxieties!
Another sweet sounding word. O, to have peace, that wars might cease, that strife be o’er! Then we can rest. Then we can live quiet peaceful lives. Fear is all gone. Danger is not imminent. You can gather your children about you and sing. You can look forward with them, plan with them and for them. Peace and rest. Relaxation and contentment. Of these man dreams.
But do not draw the conclusion that it is good for you and me to have peace and rest in this life. And if we would attain to it for a few brief moments in this life, we would have nothing yet of which to sing. Yea, rather would we live in great danger even then, when we think that all danger is for the moment past. We could quote you from the Word of God many passages that exactly teach us that. If our rest and peace is not the rest and peace of the Kingdom of Christ, the prince of peace, if it is not the peace of the New Jerusalem, the peace of the new heavens and the new earth, there is great danger for us during these “spells” of earthly quiet and rest.
David confessed in of his own experiences in times of peace and rest, “In my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved.” The Word of God as we receive it through James declares the same thing from the opposite viewpoint. James declares in , “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” And times of diverse temptations are not times of quietness and rest. They are times when the workers of iniquity, and the devil through them, exactly gives you no rest but throws at you temptation, times when you have to stand wide awake, alert, sober, realizing that evil is all about you seeking to ensnare you in its wiles and guilt.
But the thought we had particularly in mind when we penned down the above title, “Purified in His Fear”, we borrowed from what Jeremiah wrote in regard to the ungodly world as it was represented by wicked Moab in contrast to Israel which represented the Church of God. In you have the truth in a very beautiful figure of speech. We read there “Moab hath been at ease from his youth, and he hath settled on his lees, and hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone into captivity: therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed.” The force of this statement is that this cannot and must not be said of Israel. Israel has been emptied from vessel to vessel, its taste has not remained and its scent was changed. Israel did go into captivity and God in His grace did not allow Israel to settle on its lees. Neither should we desire it.
The figure, as you well understand, is borrowed from the procedure followed in producing wine. The lees are the sediment or dregs of the wine. In it is the bitterness which would spoil the wine. It is the worthless element that is thrown away after the wine is properly fermented. The bitterness of these lees, and the fact that it is given not in favor but as punishment, is evident from where we read, “For in the hand of the Lord, there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and He poureth out of the same: but the dregs therefore, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them.”
How necessary then that we collectively and individually be emptied from vessel to vessel from time to time to be purified in His fear. Each time the wine is poured from one vessel to another the lees cling to the sides and the bottom. The bitterness is left behind and the wine is purified. But the longer the wine remains on its lees, the stronger its taste and color become. And Moab, who had been at ease, had never been emptied from vessel to vessel, had never been taken into captivity, grew stronger and stronger in its bitterness and hatred towards Israel. By her prosperity and peace she became hardened into more and more rebellion against the living God and the Church which represents Him.
God forbid that we be left at our ease! But pray that He may purify us so that we may live even more in His fear. And when He sends calamities (if indeed we may call them such when they work together for our good and when through them He delivers us from the bitter dregs) to our country, disturbs the peace of our church life, troubles our family life with sore and painful trials and touches us personally with things hard for the flesh to bear let us not quickly question His love and grace, His unsearchable wisdom and perfect judgment. Nay, let us remember that it is Moab, the world that He leaves at ease for its own condemnation. He is interested in His Church. And He will therefore empty His church and His people from vessel to vessel until He has attained the glory and salvation which He has promised to His Church and to His people.
It is a sweet sounding word. But think, then, of the peace God has in mind. Think of the peace in that New Jerusalem. Consider that for that real, true, lasting peace His church must go through many trials and through much strife here below. A church that is at ease, that never suffers the reproach of man, that is left alone by the world, is untroubled by the false prophets and the world is settled on its dregs. It becomes more and more corrupt. Its members become more and more bitter against the truth and against God.
It is a sweet sounding word. But then you must have in mind the rest that remaineth for the children of God. The church that finds rest here below, the church that does not feel the enmity between the serpent and the woman, between his seed and her seed, is undoubtedly on the side of the serpent and his seed. The church that is never troubled by the unrest of controversy, that in its craving for rest from the battle covers up all heresy and tries to make the discordant notes sound as though they belong to the symphony, that tries to show the value of them, really has no rest. And these dregs, this sediment that collects over a period of time will soon give the wine its noticeably strong taste and scent whereby you will be able to brand it as the false church.
Moab never went into captivity. Israel did. Why the one and not the other? The answer is: God’s grace! Israel is precious in God’s sight, and all that emptying from vessel to vessel which she experienced only emphasizes that fact. Surely it does not deny it. Indeed, we say again that if your rest and peace is vain, temporary and deceiving peace of this present world, then God surely is not gracious to Israel. Then, surely, He is gracious to the world, and His people miss out on His favor and loving kindness. But it is not so! He works with an eye to that true rest and peace which He has prepared for His Church in Christ. And to prepare them for that rest and peace, to purify unto Himself a people that delights in that peace and rest, He does disturb our earthly peace and quietness.
We may not forget Him. We may not live as though we are independent of Him. We may not take to ourselves the bounties of His earth and fail to thank Him for them. We may not receive sons and daughters from Him and bring them up as though they are ours to do with as we please. In all we must fear Him. With all we must be thankful to Him. For all we must look up to Him. And that we may remember Him whom we so easily forget; that we may be reminded to thank Him Who is the overflowing fountain of all good; that we may rededicate all that we have and receive to Him; He in His infinite grace and mercy reaches down and touches us, our families, our nation and country and our church life. He lays us or our loved ones low with serious ailments. He sends our sons to bloody battlefields and leaves aching hearts. The peace and quietness of our home life is gone. We have been emptied of that vessel. We have not been allowed to remain undisturbed in our comfortable position of forgetting Him. We have suddenly been alerted to our dependency upon Him, our need of Him, our calling before Him.
It is a blessed disturbance, then!
Our rest and our peace were taken away in order that we might consciously enter into that true and lasting peace and rest of trust and confidence in the promises of God in Christ. But then, the very fact that our rest and peace could be disturbed and were disturbed reveals, does it not? that they really were not true peace and rest. True peace and rest are enjoyed in the way of faith. True peace and rest are peace and rest which the ungodly cannot enjoy. There is no rest for the wicked, the Scriptures declare. If your only rest and peace is the rest and peace you enjoy with the wicked, be sure that it will come to a sudden and violent end. Be sure that you are going to be disturbed! What an awful disturbance it will be in the days of Gog and Magog, to say nothing of the awful disturbance in that eternal lake of torment!
But if the Almighty covenant Father disturbs you in His grace to purify your faith, to strengthen you in His fear, complain not. There IS a rest that remaineth for the people of God. It remaineth to all eternity. And God’s people shall remain in it to all eternity.
To be pleasing in God’s sight, to be “tasteful” in His mouth, to be acceptable to Him, that is worth more than all the earthly rest and peace this world can produce. And our present afflictions, which serve the purpose by God’s grace of purifying us in His fear, are not worthy to be compared with the glory to be revealed in those who are pleasing in His sight and are tasteful in His discerning mouth.