God Resting in His Love
"He will rest in his love." Zephaniah 3:17
It must be the mournful acknowledgment of every spiritual mind, that, after all the clear revealings of truth, and the deep teachings of the Holy Spirit, our views of what God is in Himself, of what He is to His people, and, we may add, of what His people are to Him, fall so far below what they ought to be. May not this disproportion of our conception of their magnitude and preciousness be traced, in a great measure, to the deficiency of our faith in the plain matter of fact statements of God's word? We stumble at the very simplicity of the truth. Take, for illustration, that single declaration- "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life." The most unhesitating, simple belief of this, shall we say, matter of fact, yet astounding announcement- faith just receiving it without any qualification, or demur, exactly as it is found in the Bible- will teach us more in one hour of what God in Christ is to a poor penitential believer, than a century of human teaching. The truth is, we do but half believe the word of God. We doubt, we hesitate, we reason, we cavil, we add to it, and we take from it- we receive just so much as we can understand, and reject just so much as is not palatable or clear; and the sad consequence is, God reproves our unbelief by leaving us for a season to the effects of our unbelief.
But although we believe not, yet He remains true to every jot and tittle of His revealed truth. The imperfect credence which we give to its statements cannot invalidate His promise, nor alter the word that has gone out of His mouth. In the midst of all our slowness of heart to believe, and insensibility of heart to love, "He abides faithful." There, more immovable than the rock of the ocean, more impregnable than the battlements of heaven, firmer than the pillars of the universe, our God, our own covenant God abides, for "he will rest in his love."
In conducting these pages to a close, what theme of holier, tenderer interest, what view of God more elevating, soothing, and sanctifying, could we with greater appropriateness leave upon the mind of the pious reader, than 'God resting in His love'? May the Holy Spirit impart to us an enlightened view and a personal possession of this truth.
The perfection in which God is described as resting is, His love. That He should rest in this, and not in His holiness, or His wisdom, or His power, conveys the most exalted view of its transcendent excellence, and of His own ineffable delight in it. For what is God's love? It is not so much a perfection of His being as it is the essence of His being, for "God is love." It would seem as impossible to separate love from God, as to separate God from Himself. In resting in His love, He rests in Himself. Here, then, is one of the most sublime conceptions of God ever presented to the human mind. The great, Eternal God resting- from no exhaustion nor weariness- in His love. What infinite satisfaction with, and what inconceivable delight in Himself, does this Divine posture express! There is not, perhaps, another view of God in the Bible which sets forth this truth with such vividness as this.
In resting in His love towards His saints, He must rest in the Son of His love. "God was in Christ." It was only in Christ that the Divine perfections employed in saving man could meet, and harmonize, and repose. But one object could reconcile their conflicting interests, maintain the honor of each, and unite and blend them all in one glorious expedient of human salvation, as effectual to man as it was honoring to God- that one object was God's only and beloved Son. The essential dignity of the Son of God was such, that all agreed that the rebel sinner should live if the Divine Savior would die. Divine justice- vindicating holiness, and sustained by truth- pursued the victim of its vengeance until it arrived at the cross. There it beheld the provision of mercy, the gift of love- God's dear Son, suspended, bleeding, dying in the place of the sinner, "giving himself a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor"- and justice was stayed, stood still, and adored. It could proceed no further in arrest of the rebel- it had found full, ample, perfect satisfaction, and returned, exclaiming, "it is enough!" and God rested in His love.
Yes! Jesus is the rest of the Father. Listen to the declaration which He loved so frequently to repeat- "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." With what holy satisfaction, with what fond complacence and delight does He rest in Him who has so revealed His glory, and so honored His name! How dear to His heart Jesus is, what mind can conceive, what language can express? Resting in Him, delighting in His person, and fully satisfied with His work, an object ever in His presence and in His heart, the Father is prepared to welcome and to bless all who approach Him in the name of Ills Son. "The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand." And again, "The Father himself loves you, because you have loved me." Therefore Jesus could say, "Whatever you shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it to you." Behold the Father resting in His love- resting in the Son of His love- resting in the gift of His love. Approach Him in the name of Jesus, and ask what you will, "he will give it to you."
God rests in the people of His love. It had been no selfishness in God had He loved Himself solely and supremely, to the exclusion of every other object. He might have remained eternally happy in the contemplation of His own glory, delighting in His own infinite excellence, and resting in His love to Himself. But this would have been almost impossible. Himself essential Love, the infinite ocean of benevolence, it would appear that He could not rest in the abstract contemplation of His love, but must have other objects upon whom to lavish, and with whom to share it. It pleased Him, therefore, of His own free unconditional choice, to take out of the fallen race of man, a church, a people, whom He, "loved with an everlasting love," and had elected in Christ their Head. "According as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him; in love having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he has made us accepted in the Beloved." "The foundation of God stands sure, having this seal, The Lord knows those who are his." They are a people for the most, part hidden from the knowledge of the world, and but few in number.
How few there are among the many professing Christ, who yet know anything by experience of the great and wondrous life of faith! Only they who are taught by the Spirit the plague of their own hearts can possibly know it. How few there are who appear to possess vital religion in their souls! How few choose Christ with His cross! The great mass of professors are aiming to separate Christ and His cross! They would sincerely bear the name of Christ, and be accounted as the followers of Christ, and do something for the cause of Christ, but they hide His cross, they are ashamed of His cross, they shrink from His cross. Christ and His outward lowliness, Christ and His poverty, Christ and His humiliation, Christ and the world's despising, form no part of their creed nor their religion. But Christ and the world, Christ and the popular voice, Christ and the slavery of sin, Christ and an unhumbled spirit, Christ and a love of money, and ease, and self-indulgence, make up the religion of vast numbers who yet profess, and call themselves Christians. Awful fact! How forcibly does it remind us of the solemn words of Jesus, "Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Let us, in view of this solemn truth, search our hearts, and ask the searching of God's Spirit; and in ascertaining the real state of our souls, let us take nothing for granted, rest not in past experience, nor in gifts, nor usefulness, but be satisfied only with the present, inward witness of the Holy Spirit.
Yes, God rests in the people of His love. They are precious, inconceivably precious to His heart. He keeps them as the apple of His eye. In their own view, they may be vile, polluted, worthless; but seen by Him in Jesus, He can, and He does say, to each one, "You are all beautiful, my love, I see no spot in you." Resting in Jesus, the Son of His love, He rests in His people, the objects of His love. He may afflict, and chasten, and rebuke, and try them, and permit them to be severely assailed; He may even hide His face from them for a little moment, and speak harshly to theirs, like Joseph to his brethren: He may disturb their resting-places, and scatter their creature mercies to the wind- nevertheless, you saints of God, "The Lord your God in the midst of you is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over you with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over you with singing."
Nor will He be satisfied until He has gathered them all around Him within His house in heaven- Jesus presenting to Him the whole body, 'a glorious Church,' exclaiming, "Behold, I and the children whom you have given me." Then, and not until then, will the joy of the Lord over His Church be full. Then, and not until then, will His rest in the people of His love be complete.
God rests in the manifestation of His love. Even in our fallen state, with our impaired affections clinging to us, like the green ivy around a splendid ruin, we can understand something of this feeling. If love exists, where is the heart that can conceal the affection? It must, in some mode or other, express the sentiment it feels. If revealed only to God, the heart must unburden itself of its hidden, trembling emotion. But how delightful is the expression of affection! The parent feels it when he presses his little one to his fond heart. The mother, when she clasps her infant to her thrilling bosom. The friend, when he communes with his friend. But if this principle be so strong, and its expression so delightful, in such a nature as ours, all of whose affections are so sinful and selfish, what must it be in God!
Conceive, if it is possible, what must be the holy delight of God's heart in lavishing its affection upon His people; what must be the joy of Christ when He comes and manifests Himself to His saints as He does not unto the world. A benevolent mind delights in the exercise of benevolence. God is infinitely so. Infinite, therefore, must be the satisfaction of His heart, intense the delight of His soul, when He sheds abroad His love in the hearts of His people, when He draws near in the day that they call upon Him, and manifests Himself as a loving, tender, faithful Father. "You meet him that rejoices and works righteousness, those that remember you in your way." Since, then, the Father delights to unlock the springs of His love, and to fill the heart to overflowing, take your poor, timid, doubting heart, and place it beneath those springs, that it may be perfect in love, and, perfected in love, all slavish fear will be expelled.
God rests in the immutability of His love. It is a love that knows no change in its character, and no variation in its degree. There never has been a period in which the love of God in Christ towards His people has been more or less than it is at this moment. It must have been great before conversion, because then it was that He gave His only begotten Son that they might live through Him. Then, too, it was He sent His own Spirit to regenerate their minds, and to make them new creatures in Christ Jesus. If He thus loved them before conversion, when they were yet sinners, do you think, dear reader, that His love can be less since conversion? Impossible! God rests in the unchangeableness of His love towards His saints. Nothing can move Him from it. Nothing can disturb His repose.
When He set His heart upon His people, He foresaw and foreknew all that was in them. He knew when they would revolt, when they would start aside like a broken bow, when they would stumble and fall. He knew all their waywardness, and folly, and ingratitude. "I knew that you would deal very treacherously," says God. And yet He loved them. Acquainted with their sin, does He not chasten it? and in chastening, does He withdraw His love from them? Listen to His own words- "If my children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments: if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquities with stripes. Nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor allow my faithfulness to fail." What language can more strongly set forth the Lord's determination to correct the departures of His people, while yet resting in the unchangeableness of His love towards them?
The marginal rendering of the passage, which we have thus been briefly amplifying, is exceedingly beautiful and expressive: "He will be silent because of His love." Divine wrath is silent because love has hushed it. Divine justice is silent, because love has satisfied it. Sin is silent, because love has condemned it. Satan is silent, because love has vanquished him. God's love has silenced every voice but own. When an accusation was brought against a poor sinner in the presence of Jesus, and He was called upon to adjudicate in the case, it is recorded that He, "stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not." He was silent, because of His love!
And have we no accusers? Ah, yes, many and just. Conscience accuses, and Satan accuses, and sin accuses, and the world accuses- but Jesus accuses not; He is silent because of His love. They condemn loudly, fiercely, justly, but He never condemns. "And again he stooped down and wrote on the ground." Still not a word of condemnation breathed from His lips. He had been wronged, He had been sinned against, His own holy law had been broken, and the witnesses, many and malignant, are there to testify in truth against the sinner- but Jesus is silent, and silent in His love.
"Some write their wrongs in marble- He, more just,
Stooped down serene, and wrote His in the dust;
Trod under foot, the sport of every wind,
Swept from the earth, and blotted from His mind;
There, buried in the dust, He bade them lie,
And grieved He could not keep them from the Almighty's eye."
What sweet repose is here for the saints of God! Does God rest in His love? Then the believer in Jesus may rest in it too. Does Infinity find repose here? Then may a poor finite creature. Does Immanuel rest in it? Then may I, resting in Immanuel. If it is enough for Jehovah, surely it is enough for the people of Jehovah. Our dear Lord's exhortation harmonizes with this truth. "Abide in me." "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; continue in my love." Beloved reader, come and rest in this love- Jesus invites you to its blessed repose. Are you weary, tossed with tempest? Is there sadness in your spirit, sorrow in your heart, a cloud upon your mind? Is some crystal cistern broken, some fragrant flower withered, some fond and pleasant mercy gone? "Come, " says Jesus, "and rest in my love- rest in the reality of my love- rest in the depth of my love- rest in the tenderness of my love- rest in the deathlessness of my love!"
O blessed rest! Poor, heart-broken sinner, weeping penitent, weary, laboring soul! What do you need? Mercy? It is in Christ. Forgiveness? It is in Christ. Acceptance? It is in Christ. The silencing power of love? It is in Christ. A reconciled Father, a pacified God? He is in Christ. All that you need is in Christ. Draw near, then, and rest in His love. The Father rests in Jesus- His justice rests in Jesus, His holiness rests in Jesus, His truth rests in Jesus- His power rests in Jesus- and in Jesus you too may rest! God rests in His love towards you, because He rests in the Son of His love. And in the Son of His love your weary, jaded, trembling spirit may find full and eternal repose.
And whatever your present circumstances are, be the severity of your Father's dealings what it may, ever remember that He still rests in His love. Judging of Him by providences rather than by promises, your faith may become unhinged from this truth. But the standard by which you are to form your views of God's character is the same by which you are to judge of your own- His word. That word declares that He rests in His love, that He now rests in it, that He rests in it at the present time, and therefore He rests in it at the moment that His providences in your history are the darkest and most lowering. When to your view all things seem against you- when even God Himself seems against you, then is He resting with infinite satisfaction and delight in the love with which He has loved you from everlasting. And when all the mighty wheels of His providence are rapidly revolving, when event follows event, and convulsion succeeds convulsion; when your spirit is agitated, and your heart is alarmed, and your whole soul is awe-struck and appalled at the wonder-workings of His power, then is God calmly, serenely resting in His love towards you- unmoved, unruffled, unbeclouded by the things which convulse the universe.
If God thus rests in His love towards us, how jealous ought we to be of the fervor and fidelity of our love to Him! Ah! how inconstant, and wavering, and restless have been our affections! How little have we rested in our love to Christ! Other objects have attracted us away from it, and we have been as changeable as the wind, and as unstable as the sea. But let us watch over this holy affection, apart from which God takes no pleasure in our sacrifices or services. Let it be our aim to yield up whatever rivals Christ. He sacrificed all for the love He bore us; let us sacrifice all that He requires for the love we bear Him. Jesus is worthy- O how worthy- of our deepest, strongest, most self-consuming affection. And God, who gave us His Son, asks nothing in return but that we give Him our heart. Let His love, then, constrain us to a more unreserved obedience, to a holier walk, to a more ardent, inseparable attachment to Him, to His people, and to His cause.
Let us, in this day of easy and abounding profession- this day of papal encroachment, and of popish imitation- this day of exaltation of human authority above the word of God- this day of error, of rebuke, and of blasphemy- this day of rapid and of excited action- this last, solemn dispensation of the world- the events of which are rapidly ushering in the coming of the Son of man- let us, under the influence of more simple faith, and more fervent love, and brightening hope, 'go forth unto Jesus outside the camp, bearing his reproach,' resting amid our conflict and our toil, where the Father rests- where the sinner rests- where we may rest- in Jesus!
"Jesus, I rest in Thee,
In You myself I hide
Laden with guilt and misery,
Where can I rest beside?
It is on Your meek and lowly breast
My weary soul alone can rest."
"You Holy One of God!
The Father rests in Thee.
And in the savor of that blood
which speaks to Him for me.
The curse is gone- through You I'm blest,
God rests in You- In You I rest."
"The slave of sin and fear,
Your truth my bondage broke,
My happy spirit loves to wear
Your light and easy yoke;
Your love, which fills my grateful breast,
Makes duty joy, and labor rest."
"Soon the bright glorious day
The rest of God will come,
Sorrow and sin shall pass away,
And I shall reach my home
Then, of the promised land possessed,
My soul shall know eternal rest."
READER! "May the Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ Be with Your Spirit. Amen."