JESUS VERY NEAR
Henry Law, 1858
"The word is very near unto you, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it." Deut. 30:14.
Here the Gospel beams forth brightly. This is a picture with Christ in the foreground. Here is a compass needle, pointing to Him—the pole. There is no place for doubt. Cavils are silenced. For the Spirit, who thus speaks by Moses, interprets also by the mouth of Paul. He draws back every veil. He rolls away all clouds; and shows the Lord, as the heart and marrow of this record.
This passage, then, is rich in exceeding worth. As such, it should be studied with exceeding care. Paul thus unfolds it, "Moses describes the righteousness, which is of the law, that the man, who does those things, shall live by them." Rom.10:5. Mark, you who fondly dream of human merit. The legal covenant is clearly stated. Fulfill the terms—perform the works—bring an obedience without one blemish—an unbroken whole—and then the recompense is earned. Then life eternal is won as a rightful due. But if transgression be incurred, the mouth is closed—the plea is gone—reward is forfeited. Who can say, 'pay me, for my task is incomplete! or, give me the prize, although it is unwon! or, crown me, though I am vanquished in the race!' But such is the language of self-righteous men. Can folly be more foolish—blindness more blind! Thus merit-claimants grope down this dark path to a darker night.
Paul proceeds to state the contrast. "But the righteousness, which is of faith, speaks this way." Rom. 10:6. Blessed be God! All glory to His sovereign grace! There is a righteousness pure—perfect—wrought not by man, but by Christ. It is declared to be "of faith," because faith's happy sons receive it—wear it—plead it; in it they stand and prosper; by it they mount to heaven. This righteousness is here introduced, as a person uttering a glorious voice "Say not," O anxious sinner, "in your heart, who shall ascend into heaven? (that is to bring Christ down from above) or, who shall descend into the deep? (that is to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what does it say? The word is near you, even in your mouth and in your heart, that is, the word of faith, which we preach."
"The word is near you." Do any ask, What word? The answer is, "The word of faith." The Gospel-tidings about Christ; that word, which faith bears—prizes—welcomes—clings to—lives by—that record, from which delightedly it draws strength—peace—joy—comfort—glory.
We here are plainly told, that this word was very near to Israel's sons. Their knowledge was comparatively twilight, but still abundant gleams broke on them from the Sun of Righteousness. Their every rite was Christ, in shadow. He was the soul of every ordinance. He was reflected by the tabernacle in all its parts. The altars stood His graphic form. He died in every dying lamb. He bled in all the flowing blood. He groaned in every victim's groan. The curling incense was His fragrant prayer. The veil portrayed His flesh. The priest in the resplendent robes—in every sacrificial act—in the uplifted hands—in the grand words of blessing, showed Him, as He ministered below, and as He ministers above. The leper preached the malignity and cure of sin. The true instruction from Mosaic lips was Christ—His grace—His person—and His perfect work. The outstretched finger of each part pointed to Him. A constant voice called to one sight—"Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world"—turn to the promised seed—the bruiser of the serpent's head—the great High-priest—the efficacious blood. Leviticus was a mirror, in which our elder brethren might read the full salvation, which the Father planned, and which the Son in due time achieved. Thus Gospel-truth was very near to Israel's sons.
Reader, learn hence to study Moses with mind intent on Christ. Dig in this mine, as miser eager for pure gold. The flowers of this garden all breathe heavenly fragrance. As salt is in each ocean's drop, so Jesus is in each portion of these rites. You lose the prize, except you find Him. Never take only superficial chaff from fields of such rich grain.
But if the Lord was "very near" in ancient signs, is He not more than near to those, on whom the full light shines? Believer, come then and realize your favored state. Bask on your sunny hill. Luxuriate in your abundant pastures. Walk up and down your spicy gardens. To you there should not be a desert-spot. The whole scene should blossom as a rose.
Jesus, indeed, is more than near. He came from heaven—He took our flesh, that He might unite us, as living members, to Himself, the living Head. Nearness has become oneness. The separating wall is broken down. The intervening distance is removed. He asks our hearts, that He may dwell therein. He opens wide His arms, that we may there repose. "Abide in Me, and I in you."
Precious truth! There is no place, nor time, nor state, when faith may not uplift the eye—open the ear—put out the hand—and realize a present Savior. Friends may depart—death may sever tightest bonds. But He, who ever lives, is ever living by our side. Solitude is not too lonely for His visits. Crowds exclude Him not. The morning and the evening hours—the busy day—the silent night—alike admit Him. Climate is no hindrance. In realms of snow or plains of scorching heat, the Savior journeys and tarries with His faithful servants. The rich man's hall is not above His reach—the poor man's hut is not below it. He, whom the heaven of heavens is narrow to contain—He, whom space cannot hold—He, from whose sight the angels veil their eyes—He, who sits enthroned co-equal on Jehovah's throne, always is "very near" to the poor worms, who take Him, as their all.
Believer, here is your never-failing help. Let some cases, well known in Christian life, lend their aid to make this truth more clear. Conscience will often tremble on the review of sin. Iniquities will rise, as spectres from their long-closed graves. They will pass by in terrible array. Their hideous forms will point to torment, as their due. Their taunting voice will ask, 'What hope can dwell in hearts so stained!'
But turn from such terrors to your present Lord. He, too, is "very near," showing His hands—His side. You may there read with open eye the total ransom paid. There is no need of distant wanderings to escape these alarms. The wells of everlasting peace are open at your feet. "The word is very near unto you, even in your mouth and in your heart." It shouts, "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow—though they be red like crimson, they shall be white as wool." It adds, "There is redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins." Who can be sad, with such a volume full of pardons in his hand! Who can despair, while he can eye a guilt-removing Jesus!
When Satan ragingly assaults—when he puts forth his utmost might to thrust you headlong into depths of sin—when his ensnaring net encompasses your feet—when the betraying heart offers the key to let the murderer in—when the weak flesh begins to slide down the alluring slopes—when the world tenders its most fascinating and alluring charms—is there not peril? There is! Sad annals testify, how easily saints fall. But fall not. There is a staff near. "The word is very near unto you—in your mouth, and in your heart." Listen to the sweet encouragements—"The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation." "The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly." "Resist the devil and he will flee from you—draw near unto God, and He will draw near unto you." These mighty rocks are "very near." Set your feet fast upon them, and your stand is firm.
Sometimes afflictions roll wave upon wave. Your eye on all sides rests on woe. The dearest relatives are hidden in the grave. Bereavement sits your solitary guest. Pains rack the frame. Vigor and health decline. The nights are wearisome. The days bring anguish. Poverty can scarcely obtain the needful clothing and the daily bread. Your best designs are blackened by suspicions. Reproach and taunt ply their thick darts. Earth seems one wide-spread desolation. But in these troubles faith faints not. Christ's voice "is very near unto you, in your mouth and in your heart." A very chorus of support swells happily around—"The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not lack." "The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble." Surely these consolations will uplift the head above all threatening billows.
You may be called to duties, which surpass your strength. You feel, that you are weak to bear the burdens, and to scale the heights. You fear, that you must yield—defeated—crushed. And truly you must be overwhelmed, if you are alone. But alone you cannot be, while Jesus lives. If only you be really called, you may advance high above trembling. His voice "is very near unto you, in your mouth and in your heart." Grasp the ready promises—"As your days, so shall your strength be." "I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying unto you, fear not, I will help you. Fear not, you worm Jacob, and you men of Israel—you shall thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shall make the hills as chaff." Who can faint—who will not rather be courageous, with help divine so near!
A trying hour comes on apace. Death still exercises universal sway. "It is appointed unto all men once to die." None should think lightly of an event so solemn. Momentous change! Time ceases—eternity arrives. Its accompaniments, too, are humbling. The powers droop. A languid body scarcely holds a languid mind. Beloved friends must all be left. Satan sees his last hope, and therefore musters his whole force to barb his final thrust. He draws with craftiest skill his farewell bow. This passage would indeed be dark and perilous, without a Savior "very near." But the believer grasps a reviving word—"Yes, though I walk 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."
Jesus, now gone to fit mansions in the heavenly home, then comes to receive His people, that where He is, there they may ever be. He draws the nearer, as the need increases. His everlasting arms are underneath. Thus the cold waters cannot drown. Thus martyrs' fires have been welcomed, and the excruciating stake been rapturously clasped. Believer, dread not death. Hope, rather, that Jesus will be "very near." Expect His presence—and it will be given. Ask His support, and it will surely come.
But after death, what meets you then! To die is to be with Christ. To soar from earthly scenes is to escape the clouds of sense—the mists of partial glance—the darkness of a prison-state. Then faith expires, and eternal sight expands. Then Jesus in very presence is forever "very near."
Surpassing blessedness! amazing joy! perfection of all glory! The very thought is rapture. What must be the full reality! The expectation dazzles. What will be full enjoyment! The Lord—the Lord Himself—is near in all the brightness of His Deity. Separation never can occur. Nothing can ever part. Jesus—Jesus in seen glory—is now "very near."
Some read these lines, whose conscience warns, that they possess no title to such bliss. Christ is not theirs by faith. They have not fled to Him for refuge. They cling not to His cross. Their hearts have never opened to admit this inhabitant. Sirs! tremble. But why tarry thus? Arise—make haste—draw near. The penitential prayer of faith soon reaches Him—for He is "very near."