Morning, April 15th

“To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, A Psalm of David. My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?”— Psalm 22:1

We here behold the Saviour in the depth of his sorrows. No other place so well shows the griefs of Christ as Calvary, and no other moment at Calvary is so full of agony as that in which his cry rends the air–“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

At this moment physical weakness was united with acute mental torture from the shame and ignominy through which he had to pass; and to make his grief culminate with emphasis, he suffered spiritual agony surpassing all expression, resulting from the departure of his Father’s presence.

This was the black midnight of his horror; then it was that he descended the abyss of suffering. No man can enter into the full meaning of these words.

Some of us think at times that we could cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” There are seasons when the brightness of our Father’s smile is eclipsed by clouds and darkness; but let us remember that God never does really forsake us.

It is only a seeming forsaking with us, but in Christ’s case it was a real forsaking. We grieve at a little withdrawal of our Father’s love; but the real turning away of God’s face from his Son, who shall calculate how deep the agony which it caused him?

In our case, our cry is often dictated by unbelief: in his case, it was the utterance of a dreadful fact, for God had really turned away from him for a season. O thou poor, distressed soul, who once lived in the sunshine of God’s face, but art now in darkness, remember that he has not really forsaken thee.

God in the clouds is as much our God as when he shines forth in all the lustre of his grace; but since even the thought that he has forsaken us gives us agony, what must the woe of the Saviour have been when he exclaimed, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

Evening, April 14th

“Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.”— Isaiah 3:10

It is well with the righteous always. If it had said, “Say ye to the righteous, that it is well with him in his prosperity,” we must have been thankful for so great a boon, for prosperity is an hour of peril, and it is a gift from heaven to be secured from its snares: or if it had been written, “It is well with him when under persecution,” we must have been thankful for so sustaining an assurance, for persecution is hard to bear; but when no time is mentioned, all time is included.

God’s “shalls” must be understood always in their largest sense. From the beginning of the year to the end of the year, from the first gathering of evening shadows until the day-star shines, in all conditions and under all circumstances, it shall be well with the righteous.

It is so well with him that we could not imagine it to be better, for he is well fed, he feeds upon the flesh and blood of Jesus; he is well clothed, he wears the imputed righteousness of Christ; he is well housed, he dwells in God; he is well married, his soul is knit in bonds of marriage union to Christ; he is well provided for, for the Lord is his Shepherd; he is well endowed, for heaven is his inheritance.

It is well with the righteous–well upon divine authority; the mouth of God speaks the comforting assurance.

O beloved, if God declares that all is well, ten thousand devils may declare it to be ill, but we laugh them all to scorn.

Blessed be God for a faith which enables us to believe God when the creatures contradict him. It is, says the Word, at all times well with thee, thou righteous one; then, beloved, if thou canst not see it, let God’s word stand thee in stead of sight; yea, believe it on divine authority more confidently than if thine eyes and thy feelings told it to thee.

Whom God blesses is blest indeed, and what his lip declares is truth most sure and steadfast.

Morning, April 14th

“All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,”— Psalm 22:7

Mockery was a great ingredient in our Lord’s woe. Judas mocked him in the garden; the chief priests and scribes laughed him to scorn; Herod set him at nought; the servants and the soldiers jeered at him, and brutally insulted him; Pilate and his guards ridiculed his royalty; and on the tree all sorts of horrid jests and hideous taunts were hurled at him.

Ridicule is always hard to bear, but when we are in intense pain it is so heartless, so cruel, that it cuts us to the quick. Imagine the Saviour crucified, racked with anguish far beyond all mortal guess, and then picture that motley multitude, all wagging their heads or thrusting out the lip in bitterest contempt of one poor suffering victim!

Surely there must have been something more in the crucified One than they could see, or else such a great and mingled crowd would not unanimously have honoured him with such contempt. Was it not evil confessing, in the very moment of its greatest apparent triumph, that after all it could do no more than mock at that victorious goodness which was then reigning on the cross?

O Jesus, “despised and rejected of men,” how couldst thou die for men who treated thee so ill? Herein is love amazing, love divine, yea, love beyond degree.

We, too, have despised thee in the days of our unregeneracy, and even since our new birth we have set the world on high in our hearts, and yet thou bleedest to heal our wounds, and diest to give us life.

O that we could set thee on a glorious high throne in all men’s hearts! We would ring out thy praises over land and sea till men should as universally adore as once they did unanimously reject.

     “Thy creatures wrong thee, O thou sovereign Good!
       Thou art not loved, because not understood:
     This grieves me most, that vain pursuits beguile
       Ungrateful men, regardless of thy smile.”

Evening, April 13th

“And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.”— Leviticus 1:4

Our Lord’s being made “sin for us” is set forth here by the very significant transfer of sin to the bullock, which was made by the elders of the people.

The laying of the hand was not a mere touch of contact, for in some other places of Scripture the original word has the meaning of leaning heavily, as in the expression, “thy wrath lieth hard upon me” (Psalm 88:7).

Surely this is the very essence and nature of faith, which doth not only bring us into contact with the great Substitute, but teaches us to lean upon him with all the burden of our guilt. Jehovah made to meet upon the head of the Substitute all the offences of his covenant people, but each one of the chosen is brought personally to ratify this solemn covenant act, when by grace he is enabled by faith to lay his hand upon the head of the “Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world.”

Believer, do you remember that rapturous day when you first realized pardon through Jesus the sin-bearer? Can you not make glad confession, and join with the writer in saying, “My soul recalls her day of deliverance with delight. Laden with guilt and full of fears, I saw my Saviour as my Substitute, and I laid my hand upon him; oh! how timidly at first, but courage grew and confidence was confirmed until I leaned my soul entirely upon him; and now it is my unceasing joy to know that my sins are no longer imputed to me, but laid on him, and like the debts of the wounded traveller, Jesus, like the good Samaritan, has said of all my future sinfulness, Set that to my account.'” Blessed discovery! Eternal solace of a grateful heart!

     “My numerous sins transferr’d to him,
       Shall never more be found,
     Lost in his blood’s atoning stream,
       Where every crime is drown’d!”

Morning, April 13th

“A bundle of myrrh is my wellbeloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts.”— Song of Solomon 1:13

Myrrh may well be chosen as the type of Jesus on account of its preciousness, its perfume, its pleasantness, its healing, preserving, disinfecting qualities, and its connection with sacrifice.

But why is he compared to “a bundle of myrrh”?

First, for plenty. He is not a drop of it, he is a casket full. He is not a sprig or flower of it, but a whole bundle. There is enough in Christ for all my necessities; let me not be slow to avail myself of him.

Our well-beloved is compared to a “bundle” again, for variety: for there is in Christ not only the one thing needful, but in “him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily;” everything needful is in him.

Take Jesus in his different characters, and you will see a marvellous variety–Prophet, Priest, King, Husband, Friend, Shepherd. Consider him in his life, death, resurrection, ascension, second advent; view him in his virtue, gentleness, courage, self-denial, love, faithfulness, truth, righteousness–everywhere he is a bundle of preciousness.

He is a “bundle of myrrh” for preservation–not loose myrrh to be dropped on the floor or trodden on, but myrrh tied up, myrrh to be stored in a casket. We must value him as our best treasure; we must prize his words and his ordinances; and we must keep our thoughts of him and knowledge of him as under lock and key, lest the devil should steal anything from us.

Moreover, Jesus is a “bundle of myrrh” for speciality; the emblem suggests the idea of distinguishing, discriminating grace. From before the foundation of the world, he was set apart for his people; and he gives forth his perfume only to those who understand how to enter into communion with him, to have close dealings with him.

Oh! blessed people whom the Lord hath admitted into his secrets, and for whom he sets himself apart. Oh! choice and happy who are thus made to say, “A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me.”

Evening, April 12th

“But the gate of the fountain repaired Shallun the son of Colhozeh, the ruler of part of Mizpah; he built it, and covered it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof, and the wall of the pool of Siloah by the king’s garden, and unto the stairs that go down from the city of David.”— Nehemiah 3:15

Mention of the king’s garden by Nehemiah brings to mind the paradise which the King of kings prepared for Adam. Sin has utterly ruined that fair abode of all delights, and driven forth the children of men to till the ground, which yields thorns and briers unto them.

My soul, remember the fall, for it was thy fall. Weep much because the Lord of love was so shamefully ill-treated by the head of the human race, of which thou art a member, as undeserving as any. Behold how dragons and demons dwell on this fair earth, which once was a garden of delights.

See yonder another King’s garden, which the King waters with his bloody sweat–Gethsemane, whose bitter herbs are sweeter far to renewed souls than even Eden’s luscious fruits. There the mischief of the serpent in the first garden was undone: there the curse was lifted from earth, and borne by the woman’s promised seed.

My soul, bethink thee much of the agony and the passion; resort to the garden of the olive-press, and view thy great Redeemer rescuing thee from thy lost estate. This is the garden of gardens indeed, wherein the soul may see the guilt of sin and the power of love, two sights which surpass all others.

Is there no other King’s garden? Yes, my heart, thou art, or shouldst be such. How do the flowers flourish? Do any choice fruits appear? Does the King walk within, and rest in the bowers of my spirit?

Let me see that the plants are trimmed and watered, and the mischievous foxes hunted out. Come, Lord, and let the heavenly wind blow at thy coming, that the spices of thy garden may flow abroad.

Nor must I forget the King’s garden of the church. O Lord, send prosperity unto it. Rebuild her walls, nourish her plants, ripen her fruits, and from the huge wilderness, reclaim the barren waste, and make thereof “a King’s garden.”

Morning, April 12th

“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.”— Psalm 22:14

Our blessed Lord experienced a terrible sinking and melting of soul. “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity, but a wounded spirit who can bear?”

Deep depression of spirit is the most grievous of all trials; all besides is as nothing. Well might the suffering Saviour cry to his God, “Be not far from me,” for above all other seasons a man needs his God when his heart is melted within him because of heaviness.

Believer, come near the cross this morning, and humbly adore the King of glory as having once been brought far lower, in mental distress and inward anguish, than any one among us; and mark his fitness to become a faithful High Priest, who can be touched with a feeling of our infirmities.

Especially let those of us whose sadness springs directly from the withdrawal of a present sense of our Father’s love, enter into near and intimate communion with Jesus.

Let us not give way to despair, since through this dark room the Master has passed before us. Our souls may sometimes long and faint, and thirst even to anguish, to behold the light of the Lord’s countenance: at such times let us stay ourselves with the sweet fact of the sympathy of our great High Priest.

Our drops of sorrow may well be forgotten in the ocean of his griefs; but how high ought our love to rise! Come in, O strong and deep love of Jesus, like the sea at the flood in spring tides, cover all my powers, drown all my sins, wash out all my cares, lift up my earth-bound soul, and float it right up to my Lord’s feet, and there let me lie, a poor broken shell, washed up by his love, having no virtue or value; and only venturing to whisper to him that if he will put his ear to me, he will hear within my heart faint echoes of the vast waves of his own love which have brought me where it is my delight to lie, even at his feet forever.

Evening, April 11th

“Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.”— Psalm 25:18

It is well for us when prayers about our sorrows are linked with pleas concerning our sins–when, being under God’s hand, we are not wholly taken up with our pain, but remember our offences against God.

It is well, also, to take both sorrow and sin to the same place. It was to God that David carried his sorrow: it was to God that David confessed his sin. Observe, then, we must take our sorrows to God.

Even your little sorrows you may roll upon God, for he counteth the hairs of your head; and your great sorrows you may commit to him, for he holdeth the ocean in the hollow of his hand. Go to him, whatever your present trouble may be, and you shall find him able and willing to relieve you.

But we must take our sins to God too. We must carry them to the cross, that the blood may fall upon them, to purge away their guilt, and to destroy their defiling power.

The special lesson of the text is this:–that we are to go to the Lord with sorrows and with sins in the right spirit.

Note that all David asks concerning his sorrow is, “Look upon mine affliction and my pain;” but the next petition is vastly more express, definite, decided, plain–“Forgive all my sins.”

Many sufferers would have put it, “Remove my affliction and my pain, and look at my sins.” But David does not say so; he cries, “Lord, as for my affliction and my pain, I will not dictate to thy wisdom. Lord, look at them, I will leave them to thee, I should be glad to have my pain removed, but do as thou wilt; but as for my sins, Lord, I know what I want with them; I must have them forgiven; I cannot endure to lie under their curse for a moment.”

A Christian counts sorrow lighter in the scale than sin; he can bear that his troubles should continue, but he cannot support the burden of his transgressions.

Morning, April 11th

“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.”— Psalm 22:14

Did earth or heaven ever behold a sadder spectacle of woe! In soul and body, our Lord felt himself to be weak as water poured upon the ground.

The placing of the cross in its socket had shaken him with great violence, had strained all the ligaments, pained every nerve and more or less dislocated all his bones. Burdened with his own weight, the august sufferer felt the strain increasing every moment of those six long hours.

His sense of faintness and general weakness were overpowering; while to his own consciousness he became nothing but a mass of misery and swooning sickness.

When Daniel saw the great vision, he thus describes his sensations, “There remained no strength in me, for my vigour was turned into corruption, and I retained no strength:” how much more faint must have been our greater Prophet when he saw the dread vision of the wrath of God, and felt it in his own soul!

To us, sensations such as our Lord endured would have been insupportable, and kind unconsciousness would have come to our rescue; but in his case, he was wounded, and felt the sword; he drained the cup and tasted every drop.

     “O King of Grief! (a title strange, yet true
       To thee of all kings only due)
     O King of Wounds! how shall I grieve for thee,
       Who in all grief preventest me!”

As we kneel before our now ascended Saviour’s throne, let us remember well the way by which he prepared it as a throne of grace for us; let us in spirit drink of his cup, that we may be strengthened for our hour of heaviness whenever it may come.

In his natural body every member suffered, and so must it be in the spiritual; but as out of all his griefs and woes his body came forth uninjured to glory and power, even so shall his mystical body come through the furnace with not so much as the smell of fire upon it.

Evening, April 10th

“For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,”— Acts 27:23

Tempest and long darkness, coupled with imminent risk of shipwreck, had brought the crew of the vessel into a sad case; one man alone among them remained perfectly calm, and by his word the rest were reassured. Paul was the only man who had heart enough to say, “Sirs, be of good cheer.”

There were veteran Roman legionaries on board, and brave old mariners, and yet their poor Jewish prisoner had more spirit than they all. He had a secret Friend who kept his courage up. The Lord Jesus despatched a heavenly messenger to whisper words of consolation in the ear of his faithful servant; therefore he wore a shining countenance, and spake like a man at ease.

If we fear the Lord, we may look for timely interpositions when our case is at its worst. Angels are not kept from us by storms, or hindered by darkness. Seraphs think it no humiliation to visit the poorest of the heavenly family.

If angel’s visits are few and far between at ordinary times, they shall be frequent in our nights of tempest and tossing. Friends may drop from us when we are under pressure, but our intercourse with the inhabitants of the angelic world shall be more abundant; and in the strength of love-words, brought to us from the throne by the way of Jacob’s ladder, we shall be strong to do exploits.

Dear reader, is this an hour of distress with you? then ask for peculiar help. Jesus is the angel of the covenant, and if his presence be now earnestly sought, it will not be denied. What that presence brings in heart-cheer those remember who, like Paul, have had the angel of God standing by them in a night of storm, when anchors would no longer hold, and rocks were nigh.

     “O angel of my God, be near,
       Amid the darkness hush my fear;
     Loud roars the wild tempestuous sea,
       Thy presence, Lord, shall comfort me.”

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