“But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared. . . . He saved us. . . .”b
Saved by the dawn!
Saved by the dawn of God!
The night had been so long and so dark!
Attend to the night: “folly, disobedience, deception, slavery of lust and pleasure, a home of malice and envy, hatred, so terrible that man is described as being hateful! To be hateful is worse than to hate on occasion. Hatefulness stresses the fact that this malignity is basic to our nature.
What a night!
That is the natural darkness of the human heart.
The apostle is writing to one of his spiritual sons.
The occasion for the description of our night is found in the connection of our text. The Apostle had told his son to put his people in mind to be good. They had to be good in the midst of the evil ones. And when they stood in the midst of the dark night of sin and corruption, denouncing it at all times, they had to do it with all meekness. They should take care not to talk down to the people in haughty pride. They might not look down on the wicked and the evil, and say as the hypocrites do: Depart from me, for I am holier than thou! Oh no, but they should be very meek, tender-hearted, lowly in mind and demeanor, and that for a very good reason: at one time in your life you were not a whit better. For you also were sometimes foolish, etc.
And then follows a description of the night of sin and corruption. It tends to wholesomeness to read that description once in a while. It will take the pride of life out of you if you have grace.is your name as you are by nature. Paul, at another place, says that we are darkness.
And then comes the text.
Be sure, beloved, (so reasons Paul) that you are meek among the wicked, for you at some time or another were also wicked and evil from morn till night. And you remained wicked and dark, until the dawn of God appeared.
The dawn of God!
It is the face of God!
A face of love and kindness!
The dawn of God!
The dawn is the appearance of the sun in the heavens. It is the harbinger of light.
O, when the sun appears in the heavens, as soon as the first glimmerings of light appear at the eastern horizon, the birds begin to sing. And as the light increases, the darkness must flee.
And so it is in the firmament of God’s eternal love and mercy.
The sun appeared.
Its name? Here it is: The kindness and the love of God.
How meagre are our words! How entirely inadequate is our speech, when we set ourselves to describe the beauty of the sun of righteousness. Let me state the same thing in another way: How are we to describe the beauteous face of God?
His face? Yes, the face of God is the revelation of His inmost being. And my text gives you a description of it. The beaming light-face of God is His kindness and His love.
The Lord is kind. He loves to be kind.
Let us combine the two and look at them: if you can do it. Did you ever try to look into the shining light of the sun?
In order to understand somewhat what it means that God is kind, I must first know that He is love.
The love of God toward man appeared. Well, this is such a wonderful virtue of God that the Greek word itself has found its way into our American vocabulary. It is the word philanthropy.
Philanthropy! One of the most wonderful words in the dictionary of the Holy Ghost. That is, from the point of view of the poor sinner, corrupt, and corrupting himself evermore, until he arrives into the very place of eternal corruption: the night of eternal hell.
O, beloved reader, look at that word, that Greek word which the Holy Ghost uses here to describe the Gospel of eternal light!
Philanthropy of God!
Attend to it that the word philos is used in the Septuagint for friend and that the word anthropos is the word for man.
Attend to it, study it, ponder on it. Read the Bible and let the whole Bible shed its light on that combination, and you will shout with glee and rejoicings.
The friend of Man appeared in the heavens. No wonder that the title of Savior is attached to the description of the Godhead here.
God, the friend of Man!
Behold the covenant idea!
I ask you: what is the root-meaning of a PHILOS? What is really that peculiar something which makes a friend a friend?
I will tell you: it is a man that is open unto you. It is a man that is so open unto you that his whole heart is directed at you and he is ready to take into himself all your heart. A friend is a man who is so attached to you that he wants to give you his whole heart, and in return he hungers for your heart.
Friends are exchangers of hearts.
And thus it is not strange that the word philanthropy is one of the words which is translated love in our modern language. And yet I rather translate as I did above.
But attend once more to the text: The Philanthropist appeared in the heavens.
It is God the Savior of Man.
And this Savior is an philanthropist for He opens His heart to Man. He gives him His heart, and He calls to Man from the heavens: My son! give Me thy heart!
As such He is the shining sun in the universe of His eternal mercy!
The dawn of God!
The dawn of God!
It is the open heart of God, directed toward Man!
And in this connection we will see how the first virtue of the text belongs to the second, and springs from it: the kindness of God!
The kindness of God is the urgency of that open heart to go into action. It is the urge of the Godhead to impart itself unto Man. It is the impassioned heart of God to shower goodnesses and blessings upon and into Man.
Ah, but you know exactly what I am trying to tell you. The Lord God has provided weak shadows in your own lives.
Do you not remember? Do you remember how you loved, how you adored? Do you remember that your heart was entirely open, and how you hastened to show and to speak and to murmur and to do and to give and to shower a veritable flood of good things, words, gestures, smiles upon the object of your love? If you had searched the depths of your spirit you would have found that the urge would never be satisfied until you had given yourself, and received in return the object of all your yearning.
Oh yes, God has supplied you with weak, miserably weak shadows.
But however miserable our kindnesses may be, it is enough to show us the archetype, in its sublime beauty.
God the Philanthropist!
Study the word, and you will note that God has made one word out of two: friend and man. The friend of Man! God succeeds, even as He always will to obtain the object of His desire. It is His desire to make Himself one with Man, and He succeeded. The word Philanthropia in the text is an evidence of God’s success, and it is a prophecy of its ultimate triumph and completion.
It is Jesus of Nazareth.
Look upon the face of that babe, and you will recognize the Philanthropia of God.
Look upon His face, and you will recognize God. It took Thomas a long time, but at long last he recognized the face of the babe. Listen to him, and tremble: My Lord, and my God!
Now look, again, and you will recognize yourself: He is also Man. Oh, how He loved that name. If and when He would speak of Himself, He would use most often the name: Son of Man!
God has found the object of His eternal desire: He reveals Jesus! And Jesus is this: God has united Himself with Man. God’s heart is so completely open to man that He has united Himself with us.
Look upon the Face of Jesus of Nazareth, and I assure you that when grace is your portion, you will at last murmur in the beginning of adoration: Immanuel! My Lord, and my God!
The dawn of God!
The dawn of God!
Yes, beloved reader, the dawn of God has come. But also the night. Do you remember that scene in Isaiah? A man was wandering around in Dumah, that is, Edom, and he cried: Watchman, what of the night? The matter was rather urgent so he repeats his anxious question: Watchman! what of the night? And the answer is: The morning cometh, and also the night!
Well now, that is strange! The morning cometh, the dawn is here. The light appears at the horizon. But then I cannot understand the sequel to the answer: and also the night.
Well, dear reader, you must distinguish. I can conceive of a smile, an enigmatic smile, on the face of a blind man when you start singing about the roseate dawn of the morning. That poor man smiles for it is still night with him, and the darkness of night abides with him, even though the sun may stand at the zenith.
Now, return to the several occasions when I subjoined the name of Man to the name of the friend. Repeatedly I have said: God is the love of Man, the friend of Man. The sun of righteousness appeareth unto Man.
Oh yes, but it is the Man of God’s good pleasure.
First it is Jesus. He is the friend of God originally and fundamentally.
When all is dark on the earth, and in the heart of all men, and when there are the signs that a still greater darkness of hell is a-preparing, then we see a babe. And this babe is the ONLY one who has His heart open to God in answer to God’s open heart to Him. And this babe is going to give His heart to God.
But, O miracle of all miracles! in the action of that heart-exchange, the heart of Jesus is bleeding. He brings a bleeding heart into the Inner Sanctuary, and that Inner Sanctuary is the Heart of the Triune God!
And when the heart, the bleeding heart of Jesus, enters the Inner Sanctuary, the juridical ground is laid for all intercourse between hearts of men and the heart of God.
It is only through this offering of the heart of Jesus that we are recipients of the heart of God. Eternally so, both from the point of view of the dizzying depths of the past, and the marvelous heights of the future.
Look to the horizon!
The sun of God appears. His kindness and His philanthropy!
Love toward Man!
The dawn of God’s eternal Gospel!
How good it is, after a night of horrors, to see the light of the dawn of a new day, where you will be delivered of all your nightmares.
Yes, but is that for all men?
No, it is for the Man of His good pleasure.
It is necessary to have Jesus for your substitute in the heart of God. If Jesus has not paid for you in the inner sanctuary, then the heart of God remains closed to you.
It is only for those who are the foreknown of His eternal love that the dawn appears.
For the others? Listen to the watchman of Isaiah: “and also the night!”
It was very dark in the heart of Judas. And he walked with the light of the World!
It was gloomy in the council chamber of the Sanhedrin. You could “feel” the darkness in and around the Hall of Justitia of Pilate (I hear the terrible laughter of a God!). And the light of God’s loving heart stood before him with a bleeding face. He would add to that blood, and so make the light of God’s love more radiant. Pilate proves his darkness by allowing Jesus to be scourged and beaten, to be tortured and to be slain. Oh yes, he will add to the blood.
The morning had come! Must I prove it? Well, come along! we will go to the garden of Joseph. Hold on, do not be rash! Take off your shoes from off your feet: the place where you walk is holy ground.
The morning is come! There He is, at the extreme horizon. What golden light; what radiant beauty! Jesus begins His eternal song: the song of the Lamb. It tells of the love of God for you, my brother.
But, O horrors, what of that watch? They become as dead men. They drop their swords and run as though the very devil were at their heels. And they are dark, in darkness, and they shall accumulate more darkness when the advice of the Sanhedrin is heard and followed.
But Mary weeps.
She loves the light of God. As no one ever did. She heard the voice of God that beckoned to the shore. And standing there she saw, she saw the face of God all radiant with light of love!
No, Mary weeps no more. She came to halls where light is ever bright, where God is near and songs are made, the melodies of love that is eternal. She is in heaven, the source of dawn and sun and light, where darkness will be gone forever.
Oh, blessed dawn!