Rise Up, My Love (142): Mindlessly Drifting Away

Tunnel under Amphitheater of ThysdrusSong of Solomon 5:2 “I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh…” Chapter five records a frightening separation between the bride and her husband. I spent two months puzzling over these verses…dreading the thought of having to undergo such a separation from my Lord as is recorded in this chapter…wondering if somehow I have been experiencing just such a separation without even understanding it. Have I fallen asleep without knowing it? Is such separation even possible during New Testament times now that we are indwelt by the Spirit and given the precious promise of Jesus: “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:29).Ancient Home in TunisiaHowever or whenever a sense of separation may come, may our first assurance be that regardless of our circumstances, once we belong to Christ, he can be found again. Notice the precious promise given first in the Old Testament: “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, He it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Deuteronomy 31:6). God promises that he will not forsake us, and that we will ultimately never perish, but he does not promise that we will never forsake him. Indeed, the chronic record of man is that of faith, failure, and restoration. “One man among a thousand have I found…” (Ecclesiastes 7:8) is a dreary record indeed of faithfulness. All forsook our Lord in the garden…even Peter, despite his adamant denial: “Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples” (Mathew 26:35).Sbeitla, TunisiaAmazingly, our Lord does not chastise us for this. He predicts it, even as he predicted Peter’s denial. He prepares us with blessed insights: “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10:9). Once his, he will never shut us out, and we can always come to him, but he never forces us; our worship and service are always to be the outflow of love, not slave labor. With the gift of free choice also comes his acknowledgment that we may go “in and out” of fellowship. Sbeitla, Tunisia 2He predicts our course, prepares us ahead of time for how to deal with our failures, and then promises restoration for all who repent. “For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall yea be saved” (Isaiah 30:15). And, to Peter: “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32). Jesus gave not a word of rebuke. Not a hint of self-pity. Nothing but the bright flame of pure, burning love and the promise of restoration with the commission to compassionately encourage other believers afterwards.Amphitheater in El Djem 2Why he should deal with us so tenderly…with such undying love…is beyond comprehension. Why didn’t Jesus call down fire from heaven, like Elijah, and destroy his enemies? Why didn’t he call ten thousand angels to destroy the world and set himself free? When we fail, why doesn’t this mighty God, who accounts the nations as nothing, grind us to powder and blow us away like the dust of the balances (Isaiah 40:15)? He who casts angels into the pit for disobedience (Revelation 20:3), why does His hand reach out still to us who are but wayward human beings? Why doesn’t he quench the smoking flax or despise the tiny flickers of love that smolder within our hearts (Isaiah 42:3)?Endless SandThe answer is in his eternal mercy and love. “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities…the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him…” (Psalm 103:10,17). Although five times between Isaiah 5—10 we are told that God chastised his people in anger, and “for this his hand is stretched out still” (i.e. God was still angry), still, in Psalm 136 we are told twenty-six times that God’s mercy endures forever: God “brought forth Israel…with a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm: for his mercy endureth for ever.” Yes, God is angry with the wicked every day (Psalm 7:11), but his love never ends: “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” (Jeremiah 31:3) What an example of mercy, grace, and forgiveness for us as humans! Oh, that we might comprehend this love and let it transform us, so that we in turn might love those around us with his compassion and mercy!Easter lilies in Cathedral

 

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