James Smith, 1864
"Test me now!" says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of Heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it!" Malachi 3:10
The Lord loves to have his people near to him, walking closely with him, and proving the constancy of his care and love. But they neglect him, wander from him, and grieve his loving heart. Still, he cannot neglect them; he will not give them up, but calls after them, "Return unto me — and I will return unto you!" He expostulates with them, "Will a man rob God?" He charges sin upon them, that he may affect them, and bring them to repentance; he says, "You have robbed me!" And he tells them in what — even in withholding their "tithes and offerings." He tells them they are "under a curse," even the "whole nation!" Surely, then — he will disown, discard, and give them up!
No, anything but this. He exhorts them to duty, to put him to the proof, and pledges himself to throw open the floodgates of Heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it! Wondrous grace this! Astonishing display of forbearance and condescending mercy! Beloved we are in similar circumstances — and God speaks to us in this word. We have wandered from him; we have robbed him; we are under his frown — and he invites us to "test him now." Let us fix our attention upon these words a few moments.
First, let us look at the period, "now." It was a season of darkness; for sin had drawn a cloud over them. The Sun of Righteousness did not shine upon them. The ordinances of God were not attended with power. The saints were not lively. The priests were not devout, devoted, and determined in God's cause. The daughter of Zion was covered with a cloud. It was a trying time. Their labors were not crowned with success. Selfishness characterized most of the people. They were questioning God's distinguishing love to them. The ordinances were changed. Men kept the best for themselves, and offered only the refuse to God — even "the blind and the lame." God's altar was polluted, his day was profaned, and his name was dishonored.
They had long been in a backsliding state, and they had spoken stoutly against God. The season, therefore, was very discouraging. What could they expect? What could they plead? How could they look to the Lord to do any great thing for them? Whether they looked at themselves, or at the church, back to the past, or around on the present — everything looked discouraging, and was calculated to cast them down. And now it is, that the Lord appears; he says, I am willing to receive you, to bless you, and to restore you to prosperity and dignity; "Test me now!" Observe —
Secondly, the direction, or exhortation, "Test me now!" Examine my promises. What have I led you to expect? What have I promised to give? How do you read in my word? Take the promises which I have made, look narrowly into them, examine them carefully — and see what they contain.
Read the history of my church. See what I have done for my people. Look back, and converse with the years that are gone by. "Remember the years of the right hand of the Most High God." Attend to my requirements. Do what I bid you — and do it because I bid you. Set your heart upon my house, and seek to promote my cause. Show zeal in my service, and concern for my honor.
"Bring all the tithes into the storehouse." Be just
for God. Be honest to your profession. Perform your vows. Fulfill
your engagements. Deny yourselves, and act in character as professors of my
holy religion. Put yourself into such a condition — that I can bestow
my blessing upon you honorably. Show that you repent of your selfishness,
dishonesty, and various sins. Test that you honestly desire my smile, my
sanction, and my blessing. Meet me in my house — and "let us reason
together." Meet me at my throne — and "let us plead together." Let it
be seen that you really want a revival of religion, and that you are in
downright earnest, to obtain my blessing. Put away all shams, all
make-believes, all mere formal ceremonies — and return to the
days of your youth, for "I remember you, the kindness of your youth, the
love of your espousals, when you went after me in the wilderness, in a land
that was not sown. Israel was holiness unto the Lord, and the first fruits
of his increase was dedicated to me."
Be as hearty now — as you were then.
Be as decided now — as you were then.
Be unworldly now — as you were then.
Obey the precepts of my Word now — as you did then.
This is the way to test me. To this I invite you. To this course I exhort you. For I wait to be gracious unto you; I desire to do you good. What do you say? "Will you test me — and obtain a blessing?
Beloved, God wishes us to test the truth of his word. The willingness of his heart to bless us. His word is true — and yet many of his promises are not fulfilled to us. How is it? It must be, that they imply conditions which we have not fulfilled, or a state of mind to which we have not attained. He desires us to test the faithfulness of his character, as a promising and performing God. His faithfulness is like the great mountains. His faithfulness reaches to the clouds. He cannot forfeit his character, or deny himself.
Still, some of the promises which suit us, are not fulfilled to us. How is it? God is faithful. He is true to his word. Yes — but we have been unfaithful. We have been false and fickle. We have gone away from his ordinances, and have not kept them. He has righteously hid his face from us, and withheld the promised blessing. His heart has been grieved by us, and, therefore, his hand has not been open to us. But now he says, "Repent and turn from your evil ways!" and test the truth of my word, and my faithfulness to my character, as a prayer-hearing and promise-performing God.
He would have us test the unchangeableness of his
nature. He says, "I am Jehovah — I change not." I am now — just what
I was in the days of your prosperity; I am now — what I was when I
delivered your fathers from Egypt, brought back my people from Babylon, and
wrought wonderously by my word in apostolic times. There has been no change
in me — the change is in you. You have changed, and you must
change again. You must come back to the point from which you
wandered. When you do so — you will find me the same God; the same loving
Father; and see that I am as ready to receive, to pardon, and to give good
things, as ever I was in the days of old! You must show . . .
the same love to my truth,
the same zeal in my cause,
the same tenderness of my honor,
the same faith at my throne,
the same fervor in my service,
the same readiness to support my interest,
the same desire for the conversion of souls,
the same affection for my people, and
the same dedication to my service —
and then "I will throw open the floodgates of Heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it!"
Beloved, God loves to be put to the test. He says to us, "Test me — but do it honestly, from a real desire to obtain and enjoy my blessing. See if you observe my precepts, whether I will not soon fulfill my promises." He gives us opportunities for testing him. Times of trouble, times of comparative barrenness, times like the present — are opportunities to test the Lord. He honors obedience to his own directions, and attention to his own exhortations. For though our obedience cannot merit anything at has hand, or obeying deserve his blessing — yet he has so connected obedience and blessing, that we have no right to expect the one, without the other. The rule by which he proceeds in blessing his church is, "Those who honor me — I will honor." Thus he secures our sanctification — while he manifests his sovereign and unmerited grace.
He speaks to every reader of this piece; to every member of his One Church; to every soul that is desirous of being useful in the world, or that longs to see his cause prosper and flourish; and he says, "Test Me Now! I will bless you, if you are willing to be blessed. I will make you a blessing, if you are prepared to observe my directions. I will be God; I will be the Sovereign; I will be the Master; I will maintain my rights, even while I confer my favors. And if you are willing that I should be so, and will test it by your conduct — then I will pour you out a blessing."
See, then, why we have not had the blessing. There
has been some Achan, some golden wedge, some Babylonish
garment, in the camp!
Some sin has been indulged,
some Agag has been spared,
some duty has been neglected,
some cross has been avoided, or
some sacrifice has been withheld.
But, after all, God says to us again, "test Me now." It is not too late. My hand is not closed forever. I have not recalled my promise. I have not left the throne of grace. I have not shut up my loving-kindness in displeasure.
Brethren! Let us examine; determine; return to the Lord; put him to the proof — and obtain the much needed blessing.