"The Lamb in the midst of the throne shall be their Shepherd, and shall guide them unto fountains of waters of life—and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes." Rev. 7:17
Where is now our Brother in Adversity, and how is He employed? John the Baptist pointed Him out as "The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." John the Apostle beheld Him as "The Lamb in the midst of the throne." Our Lord spoke of Himself as "sitting on the right hand of power," and Mark tells us that "He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God" (Mark 14:62; 16:19). Apostles testify that God has made the risen Christ to "sit at His right hand" (Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1); that "we have such an High Priest who sat down on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens" (Heb. 8:1), "who is on the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him" (1 Pet. 3:22). In encouraging the church at Laodicea to overcome, He said, "I also overcame, and sat down with my Father on His throne" (Rev. 3:21); and to the Father and the Son together the anthem of the glorified ascends—"Unto Him who sits on the throne and unto the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever" (Rev. 5:3). Surely then "He is able to save to the uttermost."
He is Lord of Creation and Nature's Laws. He is "mightier than the mighty waves of the sea," the wrath of man and the assaults of the devil. Is not the Church safe under His guardianship? Is not every disciple? If, when enemies, we were reconciled by His death, shall we not much more, now we are friends, be saved by such continued life! When we pray, "O Lamb of God, who died to take away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us," let us think of Him as no longer in Gethsemane or on the Cross, but on the throne of God, mighty to save!
Crown Him! our Prophet true;
That anguish-furrowed brow,
The Church He ransomed sings
Crown Him! Creator, Friend;
How is He employed? The Lamb of sacrifice is the Shepherd of guardianship. Departed saints often sang "The Lord is my Shepherd" as they followed Him through the gloomy valley or reposed in the green pastures. His words are still verified, "I am the Good Shepherd;" the scars he bears are a constant memorial that He "gives His life for the sheep;" and their safety and bliss verify His promise, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and they shall never perish." Not as before, with feeble, faltering, sometimes reluctant steps, but ever vigorous, faithful, rejoicing, "they follow the Lamb wherever He goes."
He guides them unto "fountains of waters of life." Cisterns, however large, are limited, may leak, are sometimes broken and "can hold no water." Thus with all earthly consolations. But "the river of the water of life" is clear as crystal; inexhaustible, for its source is ever the same; yet ever new, as varied lights on a stream's dancing wavelets and sparkling spray. The boundless universe filled with the works of God, the countless multitudes composing the society of heaven, the diverse kinds of service, the ever new revelation of Divine love and glory secure unceasing freshness in the unfailing fountain. Even now, thirsting for spiritual grace and consolation, we accept the Shepherd's call, "If any man thirsts, let Him come unto me and drink." But what must it be to drink of those waters at the Fountain!
In close connection with these words we read that "God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes." This also is the employment of the Shepherd who guides to the living waters, for God and the Lamb are inseparably united in these revelations of heaven. "The glory of God did lighten it, and the lamp thereof is the Lamb." "The throne of God and the Lamb shall be in it." "He showed me a river of water of life, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb" (Rev. 7:17; 21:22, 23; 22:1-4). Conjointly with the Father, the glorified Son, the ever-living Shepherd, wipes away all tears.
How can this be in a world where no tears are shed? By effacing from the volume of memory the sad traces of former tears. How many aged saints, after long and happy assurance of pardon, have still lamented with David, "Remember not the sins of my youth." These sometimes creep out from the shadowy past, and sadden those who long before entered into the peace of pardon. When what men call great sins are not on record, how often will acts of folly, self-indulgence, passion, unkindnesses, neglect of opportunities, and the dark days spent without God come to mind!
Though the wounds have been healed, the scars remain. But in heaven these also disappear, and pardoned sins will be remembered only to excite renewed praises to the Savior who took them away. "They have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb; faultless before the throne."
So with other sorrows. After long years, former griefs become vivid in the imagination and cause new distress. Again we tremble at the past peril, quail under the threat, grieve because of the unkindness, lament the bereavement. But in heaven such memories will forever be effaced, and nothing remain but records of mercy. There will be no new occasion of tears, and no apprehension of it, "for the former things have passed away."
Let us, then, be comforted respecting those who have gone before. We shall soon join them. Meanwhile their Shepherd is ours. Drinking of the streams now is a sure token that we shall drink with them at the Fountain, and the pledge is the fact that "the Lamb is in the midst of the throne."
RESPONSIVE PRAYER OF THE SORROWFUL
The cup which my Father has given me shall I not drink it? His wisdom mingled it, His love presented it, His glory in my good and that of others prompted it—shall I hesitate to take it? Shall I not rather give thanks for it? If bitter to the taste, it is sweetness in the result—the passing pain is lasting health; even were it otherwise, should not my Father's will make it a privilege and blessing? The cup which my Father has given me shall I not drink it?
O You who in Gethsemane did drink the cup of unequaled woe, embittered by the sin of the world, grant that I may share in the Redemption secured through Your agony and bloody sweat, Your cross and passion! Then, saved from the guilt and power of sin, all other sorrows will be easy to bear, every other cup made sweet.
O Son of Man, Brother in adversity, who did pray in Your garden of grief, with strong crying and tears, who know, by sharing, our weakness and our woe—You who are touched with a feeling of our infirmities, cheer me with Your sympathy, and let me hear You say, "Let not your heart be troubled!"
As You did partake our woes, so let me rejoice in the fellowship of Your sufferings. May I be numbered with Your friends to share with You in the sorrows, sympathies, and prayers of Your Body, the Church. Let it console me that I drink of the cup You did drink of, and am baptized with the baptism with which You were baptized. Let the path along which I am led become beautiful and bright by the traces of Your feet, the memories of Your tears, the presence of Your Spirit, the pressure of Your hand. When I go through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for You are with me, Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
O You who did drain Your cup to its dregs, perfectly fulfilling the Father's loving will, and, having finished the great sacrifice, did ascend to the right hand of God, grant that I may prove that You are able to save to the uttermost. Lord support, help, and comfort me. In all times of danger, necessity, and tribulation, good Lord, deliver me!
Forbid it that in any garden of grief my soul should slumber. Let me not be so absorbed in my distresses as to forget You; let not the voice of pain silence that of prayer, nor let care for my own comfort make me indifferent to others, and negligent of duty. Let one not thus be found by You sleeping for sorrow; but help me to watch and pray that I enter not into temptation.
Lord of Angels, may I participate in their ministry to the heirs of salvation; and as You did thus receive strength, grant that I, by the agency of earthly friends or of heavenly messengers, may be comforted. But, above all, be You Yourself ever near. Having known the need of such consolation, and condescended to receive it, come to me when ready to faint, and strengthen me to say, "Father, Your will be done."
Hear me and deliver me! If You will, by taking the cup from me; but, if otherwise, by enabling me to drink it. Save Your servant by strength to serve and suffer. May I say, with Job, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord," and with David, "God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble," and with the woman of Shunem, "It is well," and with Habakkuk, "Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains," and with Paul, "I glory in weakness, that the strength of Christ may rest upon me." O help me to do and endure all things by hearing Your voice saying—"My grace is sufficient for you."
Help me to bring everything to You in prayer, and so in everything to be without anxiety. I know You care for me; let me not then worry myself. Help me to cast my burden on You, trusting in You to sustain me. Let me come to the throne of grace, not doubtingly but boldly, because You are there to bestow all the help I need. Let me rejoice in the certainty that prayer is heard by Him who delights in mercy. Let habitual prayerfulness be to me an assurance that I am Your child, and so may I take to myself the promise of unfailing support to God's elect.
Let me not forget that, as one of the children of God, I must expect fatherly discipline; that whom the Lord loves He chastens; and that such sorrows are needful for my spiritual culture. O that I may thus be led to repentance of what is wrong; that faith and patience, trust, knowledge, prayerfulness, experience, hope, may be thus perfected. May not merely the primary essentials of godliness be mine, but by trial may the beauties of holiness be developed—whatever things are lovely, gentle, pure; and may I rejoice in my sufferings, if thereby others may be blessed both by my example of patience and by increased capacity to comfort others with the comfort with which I myself am comforted of God. Let me therefore consider, not so much the grievousness of affliction for the present, as the peaceable fruits of righteousness afterwards. I will rest on the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.
Affliction is leading me towards home, and fitting me for its enjoyment. From the gloomiest garden of grief I may see the many mansions of the Father's house which Jesus has gone to prepare. May I behold Him as the Lamb in the midst of the throne, at the seat of all authority. He who once died for my sins now lives and reigns for my perfected salvation. He will not fail me in my utmost need. He is still acting as the Good Shepherd of His glorified flock. He leads them to living waters, and has wiped all tears from their eyes. I may not mourn for them. Blessed are the dead who thus live with the Lord! I will not dread the hour that will bring me to join them in the presence and perfected service of God. Ought I not to say of every cup of sorrow thus given by my Father, "Shall I not drink it?"
But I will not regard sorrow as my cup. It is only one element in it, a small and transitory element. My cup is Salvation. In that cup are pardon, sonship, purity, peace, fellowship with God, everlasting bliss.
The penitent prodigal has been welcomed home. Justified by faith, I have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. My sins and iniquities are remembered no more. I am born from above. I am a child of God. I look up to the Creator of the universe and say, Father! I may hold constant communion with Him. His Spirit in my heart helps me to conquer sin, and fills me with joy and peace in believing. Though I see Him not, yet believing in Jesus, I rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. I know whom I have believed. I am persuaded He will keep me to that day. We know that we have eternal life. We know that we have a home above, eternal in the heavens. We are looking for that blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
This is my cup. In it there are some bitter drops, but how few compared with the whole contents of it! and these few essential to the health of those who drink. I cannot have the whole without the part. This is the cup my Father has given me, and shall I not drink it? Yes! I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord. Now on earth, and afterwards in the glorified assembly above, I will pay my vows unto the Lord; in the presence of all His people; in the courts of the Lord's house; in the midst of You, O Jerusalem! Praise you the Lord! Hallelujah!
"The mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from You."
The joys of Earth may Heaven conceal,