THE REBUKES OF LOVE
"This is the resting place, let the weary rest; and this
is the place of repose"—
"Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline."
What! speak of rest and refreshment when, it may be, the
ringing sound of the axe is heard amid cherished earthly palm-groves all
around, and the sands are strewn with lopped branches and scattered leaves!
Yes. It is even so. "The wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place
remembers it no more! But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's
love is with those who fear Him" (Ps. 103:16, 17).
The words of our motto-verse, too, observe, were spoken,
not by the lips of Christ the Sufferer on earth, but by the glorified
lips of Christ the Exalted King. They are whisperings of the
Heavenly Palm, which come wafted to us from the groves of Paradise.
"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful!"
The divine dispensations are often incomprehensible. Jehovah's name to His
people is at times that which He gave to Manoah—"Wonderful," "Secret,"
"Mysterious." That corroding sickness, that wasting heritage of pain,
these long tossings on a fevered, sleepless pillow; where can there be love
or mercy there? But the silence and loneliness of the sickbed is the
figurative "wilderness," where He "allures" that He may "speak tenderly to
them, and give them back their vineyards" (Hosea 2:14, 15); rousing them
from the low dream of earth, from the base and the worldly, from busy care
and debasing concern, to the divine and the heavenly.
Or, that unexpected heritage of poverty—the crash
of earthly fortune, the forfeiture of earthly gain, the stripping the walls
of cherished and familiar treasure, and sending those nursed in the lap of
luxury, penniless on the world—where is there mercy or love here? But it is
through this beneficial, though rough discipline, that He weans from the
debilitating influence of prosperity, leading them to exchange the pot of
earthly stew, for the bread of life—perishable substance for the fine gold
of heavenly gain and durable riches.
Or, that cruel blighting of young hope and pure
affection—the withering of some cherished Elim-palm; the opening of
early graves for the loving and beloved; holiest ties formed, but the memory
of which is all that remains; where is there kindness and mercy in creating
bonds only to sever them, raising up friends only to bury them? The
plaintive experience and utterance of the lone mother in Israel is that of
many—"Don't call me Naomi, call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my
life very bitter" (Ruth 1:20).
But the streamlets are dried by Him, in order to
lead to the great Fountain-head; the links of earthly affection are
broken, in order that stronger and more enduring ones may be formed above;
the cracks have been made in the house of clay, only to render more inviting
"the building of God—the house not made with hands;" stimulating to live
more for that world where all is perfection, where we shall stand "without
fault before the throne."
A writer notes, that migratory birds are carried high by
contrary winds, and that, by being so carried, their flight is assisted. So
is it with trial. "The wind is contrary," but it impels to an upward and a
God-ward flight. As it is often in the cloudy and rainy day that the
mountains look near us, so often in the soul's gloomiest seasons the hills
of God are brought nearest. Tribulation is the first link in the
Apostle's golden chain. Dr. Trench, in his "Study of Words," tells us that
"tribulation" is derived from the Latin tribulum, which was
the machine by which the grain was sifted. Tribulation is the process
of sifting, by which God clears away the chaff and the golden grain
is retained. See, too, the gracious result of this sifting process.
'Tribulation,' to use the comment of an earnest speaker in applying the
reference, 'works, what? We might have expected the natural result,
'impatience.' It is the reverse; by the imparted grace of Him in whose hands
the tribulum is, "tribulation works patience"' (Rom.5:3).
Suffering Christian, you may well trust Him who uttered
the surprising saying which heads this meditation—who gave the mightiest
pledge of love He could give, by giving His own life—that there is
some all-wise "needs be" in the trials He has laid upon you. They are
designed to bring you nearer to Himself. They are His own appointed
gateways, opening up and admitting to great spiritual blessings. Be assured
the day will come, when these mysteries in your present lot will extract
nothing from your lips but grateful praise; when you shall joyfully
testify—'Had it not been for these wilderness experiences; that
lengthy illness, that loss of worldly position, the death of that dear
relative or friend, I would still have been clinging to earth as my portion,
content with the polluted stream and the broken cistern,
instead of drawing water out of the wells of salvation.'
An earthly father often demonstrates a false leniency by
never giving the needful rebuke which, timely given, might have averted many
a bitter life-sorrow. God rebukes and disciplines just because He
loves; and never is His love more tender than when the rod is in His
hand and the rebuke on His lips. The rebukes of an earthly father are often
poorly timed—the result, it may be, of passion or impulse. "Our fathers
disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines
us for our good, that we may share in His holiness" (Heb. 12:10). These
withered branches, stripped from some favorite grove in the valley, may
yet, afflicted one, form, in your case, the imagery of that sublime picture
of the future, where the sainted multitude in the upper sanctuary are seen
"clothed with white robes and palms in their hands."
God our Maker, God the Almighty Chastener, is said to
give "songs in the night." The birds of earth which "sing among the
branches" are silent except in the daytime; but the boughs of these
Elim-palms seem most alive with melody in hours of darkness. In the gloom of
sorrow, their fronds may appear only to be dripping with rain, when they are
in truth laden with the night-distilled dews of heaven!
"How could a moment's pang destroy
My heart's confirmed repose in Thee?
Your presence is sufficient joy
To one reclaimed and spared like me.
It is enough that I am Thine,
Almighty to redeem from sin;
You shall subdue, correct, refine
The soul which You have died to win.
I see the desolated ground
With dews of heavenly kindness fed,
And fruits of joy and love surround
The heart which You have comforted."
"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.
Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for
those who have been trained by it."