Thy Rod & Thy Staff: The Rod As Disciplinary Agent (7 of 7)

Nor would we omit the employment of the “Rod” as a disciplinary agent in the hands of our Divine Shepherd. This symbol is frequently used as illustrating the afflictive dispensations through which God’s people pass. “Hear the rod, and He who has appointed it.” The rod of Divine discipline is not less essential to the completeness of our Christian character, and thus our fitness for heaven, than any other use in which the Lord employs it. The reference in God’s word to this is striking and instructive. “If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him,” says God, “with the ROD of men.”

Listen to the words of the sorely afflicted patriarch- “Let Him take His ROD away from me, and let not His fear terrify me.” How necessary this “Rod” of reproof, judgment, and restraint, by which the Church of God is disciplined! It is fearful to contemplate the result of its absence! Dissever a timely and wholesome exercise of discipline from a church-or a nation- or a school- or a family, and how soon would lawlessness, anarchy, and ruin ensue!

And thus, exempt the Church of God- collectively and individually- from the discipline of Christ- let Him extinguish the furnace, and suspend the flail, and lay aside the knife, and what would be the result? The dross would then hide the gold- the chaff would spoil the wheat- the sucker would ruin the vine- and incalculable would be our soul’s loss!

Thy Rod & Thy Staff : The Rod Of Restraint (6 of 7)

Nor must we overlook the restraining use of Christ’s Rod and Staff. The restraints of Christ’s grace are not less conspicuous in the believer’s experience than the constraints of His love. There is a strong tendency in us to go before the Lord, rather than follow His leading hand. We desire to anticipate His will and antedate His way concerning us, rather than in quietness and confidence wait the movement of His guiding rod.

Peter- impulsive and self-reliant, went before the Lord when He asked Jesus to bid him come to Him upon the water. The consequence was, he began to sink; and but for the hand of Christ, the proud waves had whelmed him in their depths. Impetuous and distrustful, we would dictate to God the way by which He should lead, and the means by which He should deliver, and the lessons by which He should instruct, and the discipline by which He should sanctify us. But Jesus, consulting our greatest good, orders otherwise. “When He puts forth His own sheep, He goes before them.”

Oh blessed restraints of Christ! Restraining our rebellious will- our impetuous spirit- our blind zeal- and our erring judgment- Christ interposes His “rod and His staff,” and in a thousand instances keeps us from falling. Significant words of God to David- “I kept you from sinning against Me”! Among your costliest mercies, count the restraints and checks of Christ’s “rod and staff.” We shall never fully know, until we arrive in heaven, in how many instances and ways we were kept by God- from how many a precipice, and from how many a broken bone, and from how many a fatal mistake, the Lord went before to preserve us.

We rebelled, perhaps, at the interference of the “rod”- we murmured at the checks of the “staff”- we felt the sickness sore- the suffering acute- the disappointment bitter- nevertheless, when the mist and the cloud uplifted, revealing the imminent peril to which we had been exposed, we then saw clearly the wisdom and mercy of our God in imposing those divine and salutary restraints, but for which we should blindly and inevitably have wrecked all that was precious to us in this life, and glorious in the life that is to come.

April 23: A Stolen Heart

“Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” 1 John 5:21

An idolatrous and unsanctified attachment to the creature has again and again crucified love to Christ in the heart. Upon the same principle that no man can love the world and God with a like supreme and kindred affection, so no man can give to Christ and the creature the same intensity
of regard.

And yet, how often has the creature stolen the heart from its lawful Sovereign! That heart that was once so simply and so supremely the Lord’s, those affections that clung to Him with such purity and power of grasp, have now been transferred to another and an inferior object; the piece of clay that God had given but to deepen the obligation, and heighten the soul’s love to Himself, has been molded into an idol, before which the heart pours its daily incense; the flower that He has caused to spring forth but to endear His own beauty, and make His own name more fragrant, has supplanted the “Rose of Sharon” in the bosom.

Oh! is it thus that we abuse our mercies? is it thus that we convert our blessings into poisons? that we allow the things that were sent to endear the heart of our God, and to make the cross, through which they came, more precious, to allure our affections from their holy and blessed center? Fools that we are, to love the creature more than the Creator!

Dear reader, why has God been disciplining you as it may be, He has? why has He removed your idols, crumbled into dust your piece of clay, and blown witheringly upon your beauteous flower? Why? Because He hates idolatry; and idolatry is essentially the same, whether it be offered to a lifeless, shapeless stock, or to a being of intellect and beauty.

And what does His voice speak in every stream that He dries, in every plant that He blows upon, and in every disappointment He writes upon the creature? “My son, give me your heart. I want your love, your pure and supreme affection; I want to be the one and only object of your delight. I gave my Son for you- His life for yours; I sent my Spirit to quicken, to renew, to seal, and possess you for myself; all this I did that I might have your heart.

To possess myself of this, I have smitten your gourds, removed your idols, broken your earthly dependences, and have sought to detach your affections from the creature, that they may arise, undivided and unfettered, and entwine around One who loves you with an undying love.”

April 22: His Humiliation

“Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.” Isaiah 53:4

In order to the perfection of His character as the High Priest of His people, as the Brother born for adversity, in order to be “touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” He must Himself suffer. He must know from painful experience what sorrow meant- what a wounded spirit and a broken bleeding heart, a burdened and a beclouded mind, were. In this school He must be taught, and disciplined, and trained; He must “learn obedience by the things which He suffered;” He must be made “perfect through sufferings.”

And oh, how deeply has He been taught, and how thoroughly has He been trained, and how well has He learned thus to sympathize with a suffering Church! You have gone, it may be, with your trouble to your earthly friend; you have unfolded your tale of woe, have unveiled every feeling and emotion. But, ah! how have the vacant countenance, the wandering eye, the listless air, the cold response, told you that your friend, with all his love, could not enter into your case! The care that darkened your brow had never shaded his- the sorrow that lacerated your heart had never touched his- the cup you were drinking he had never tasted. What was lacking?

Sympathy, growing out of an identity of circumstance. You have gone to another. He has trod that path before you, He has passed through that very trouble, His spirit has been accustomed to grief, His heart schooled in trial, sorrow in some of its acutest forms has been His companion; and now He is prepared to bend upon you a melting eye, to lend an attentive ear and a feeling heart, and to say, “Brother, I have known all, I have felt all, I have passed through all- I can sympathize with all.”

That Friend of friends, that Brother of brothers, is Jesus. He has gone before you; He has left a fragrance on the brim of that very cup you are now drinking; He has bedewed with tears and left the traces of His blood on that very path along which you are now walking; He has been taught in that very school in which you are now learning.

Then what encouragement to take your case, in the sweet simplicity of faith, and lay it before the Lord! to go and tell Jesus, confessing to Him, and over Him, the sin which has called forth the chastisement, and then the grief which that chastisement has occasioned. What a wonderful High Priest is Jesus!

As the bleeding Sacrifice, you may lay your hand of faith upon His head, and acknowledge your deepest guilt; and, as the merciful Priest, you may lay your head on His bosom, and disclose your deepest sorrow. O my precious Savior! must You sink to this deep humiliation, and endure this bitter suffering, in order to enter into my lonely sorrow!

April 15: The Rod Not Spared

“My son, despise not you the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when you are rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives.” Hebrews 12:5-6

The rod of your heavenly Father is upon you. In the experience of your sensitive spirit, your feeling heart, the stroke is a heavy, and a sore one. To a keen sense of its severity, is perhaps added the yet keener conviction of the sin that has evoked it- that, but for your wanderings from God, your rebellion against His will, your disobedience of His commands, there would not have come upon you a correction so painful and humiliating.

But where in your sorrow will you repair? To the solace and sympathy of whose heart will you betake yourself? Will you flee from that Father? Will you evade His eye, and shun His presence? Eternal love forbids it!

What then? You will hasten and throw yourself in His arms, and fall upon His bosom, confessing your sins, and imploring His forgiveness. Thus taking hold of His strength, with that displeased and chastening Father you are in a moment at peace. Blessed is the man, O Lord, whom You chasten, and draw closer within the sacred pavilion of Your loving, sheltering bosom.

Oh, what an unveiling of the heart of God may be seen in a loving correction! No truth in experimental religion is more verified than this, that the severest discipline of our heavenly Father springs from His deepest, holiest love. That in His rebukes, however severe, in His corrections, however bitter, there is more love, more tenderness, and more real desire for our well-being, than exists in the fondest affection a human heart ever cherished.

And oftentimes, in His providential dealings with His children, there is more of the heart of God unfolded in a dark, overhanging cloud than is ever unveiled and revealed in a bright and glowing sunbeam. But this truth is only learned in God’s school.

March 29: The Rod Of Love

“I know, O Lord, that your judgments are right, and that you in faithfulness have afflicted me.” Psalm 119:75.

The mark of a vigorous love to God is when the soul justifies God in all His wise and gracious dealings with it; rebels not, murmurs not, repines not, but meekly and silently acquiesces in the dispensation, be it ever so trying. Divine love in the heart, deepening and expanding towards that God from where it springs, will, in the hour of trial, exclaim, “My God has smitten me, but He is my God still, faithful and loving. My Father has chastened me sorely, but He is my Father still, tender and kind.

This trying dispensation originated in love, it speaks with the voice of love, it bears with it the message of love, and is sent to draw my heart closer and yet closer to the God of love, from whom it came.” Dear reader, are you one of the Lord’s afflicted ones? Happy are you if this is the holy and blessed result of His dealings with you. Happy if you hear the voice of love in the rod, winning your lonely and sorrowful heart to the God from whom it came.

But when love to God has declined, the reverse of this is the state of a tried and afflicted believer; and hard thoughts of God in His dispensations may be regarded as an undeniable symptom of such declension.

Thy Rod & Thy Staff: Guidance For The Flock (4 of 7)

By a single wave of his “rod,” by a gentle touch of his crook, the shepherd of the east was wont skillfully and effectually to lead his flock in the way in which they should go. How clearly our Lord appropriates this. “When He puts forth His own sheep, He goes before them, and the sheep follow Him.” As one of Christ’s Fold, from the moment you ‘passed under the rod,’ you became an object of His especial guidance and care. Henceforth, “I will guide you with my eye,” is the promise He has made individually yours, and which your faith is to plead. You are passing through an enemy’s country- your path often intricate and perplexing- you see not a step before you, and are often called to descend a valley deeply shaded with dark and trying providences. But you have divine and precious promises- “I will bring the blind by a way that they know not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.”

Blessed Shepherd! I am perplexed to know the path of duty! My way is hedged, and I can’t see a step before me. Show me now Your way that I may know You. Let Your guiding-rod- the word of Your truth, and the eye of Your providence- indicate the way in which I should walk- Your way. And when that way is made plain, give me grace to walk in it; be it the path of service, the most self-denying; of suffering, the most severe; or of loneliness, the most solitary.

Commit yourself, then, unhesitatingly to the guidance of Christ’s rod. He will most assuredly lead you by the best way. He is leading you now in the right path. Clouds and darkness may be round about you; but all is light to Him, in whom is no darkness at all. Around your path the events of Divine providence may be as a complete web, baffling your every effort to unravel; but He ‘knows the way that you take,’ and will guide you through the labyrinth and the maze, bringing you ‘out of a strait place into a broad place, because He delights in you.’ Blessed Shepherd! “You shall guide me with Youe counsel; and afterwards receive me to glory.”

March 12: Safe In His Hands

“Let me fall now into the hand of the Lord; for very great are his mercies: but let me not fall into the hand of man.” 1 Chron. 21:13.

Well did the trembling king of Israel so exclaim, when with an air of tender faithfulness the prophet placed before him the choice of those evils which should mark his sin. Every point of light in which his decision can be viewed justifies both its wisdom and its holiness.

It was wise: he knew that the Lord was his God; as such, He had long been wont to deal with him in transactions the most solemn and confiding, and thus, from knowledge and experience, he felt he could now safely trust in Him.

It was holy: he saw that God was most righteous in punishing his sin, and that in meekly submitting to that punishment which came more immediately from the Lord, he was sympathizing with the equity of the divine government, and was upholding the character of the “Judge of all the earth” as “most upright.

Guided by these considerations, he would rather fall into the hands of the Lord, uplifted though they were to scourge. Who has not made this prayer his own, and breathed it at the footstool of mercy? The “tender mercies of the wicked are cruel,” but the severest corrections of our Father are love. To be smitten by God is infinitely better to the believer than to be blest by man.

The creature’s affection often brings with it a snare; and the honor which comes from man tends to nourish the corrupt principle of depraved self. But whatever, in the experience of a child of God, that may be which comes more directly from the Lord, it brings with it its concealed but its certain and often unutterable blessing. Oh, how safe are we in the Lord’s hands! Though He frown, we yet may love. Though He scourge, we yet may cling. Though He slay, we yet may trust. “I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant.”

With such an issue, welcome the discipline that leads to it. “Let me fall into the hand of the Lord; for very great are His mercies.”

January 21

“This also we wish, even your perfection.” 2 Cor. 13:9

Seek larger degrees of grace. Let your standard be the loftiest, and your aim the highest. Place no limit to that which God has not limited. Never cease expecting until He ceases giving. If you are satisfied with your present measure of grace, a worse sign you could not have. To be content with being stationary in the divine life places you in a doubtful position. It is an essential property of grace that it grows. It is the immortal seed of God, and must, from its very nature, germinate. If your faith does not increase, your doubts will increase; and if your grace does not strengthen, your fears will strengthen. Fill the measure with pure wheat, as one has said, and there will be no room for chaff. Aim after elevated principles, if you desire elevated practice. Low principles invariably lead to low practice. Watch against that which tends to impair the vigor of your grace. Watch against your besetting sins- your greatest infirmities- your strongest temptations. Beware of your own heart- beware of self-confidence- beware of creature idolatry- beware of the world. Beware, too, of any neglect of the means of grace. God has appointed His channels of conveyance. Beware that you do not despise any one of them. A neglected sanctuary- a forsaken throne of grace- an unread Bible- will soon bring leanness into your soul. God has as much ordained the means of grace, as He has appointed the grace of the means.

December 22

“It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: if we suffer, we shall also reign with him.” 2 Timothy 2:11, 12

BEHOLD, then, your exalted privilege, you suffering sons of God! See how the glory beams around you, you humble and afflicted ones! You are one with the Prince of sufferers, and the Prince of sufferers is one with you! Oh! to be one with Christ—what tongue can speak, what pen can describe the sweetness of the blessing, and the greatness of the grace? To sink with Him in His humiliation here is to rise with Him in His exaltation hereafter. To share with Him in His abasement on earth is to blend with Him in His glory in heaven. To suffer shame and ridicule, persecution and distress, poverty and loss for Him now, is to wear the crown, and wave the palm, to swell the triumph, and shout the song, when He shall descend the second time in glory and majesty, to raise His Bride from the scene of her humiliation, robe her for the marriage, and make her manifestly and eternally His own.

Oh! laud His great name for all the present conduct of His providence and grace. Praise Him for all the wise though affecting discoveries He gives you of yourself, of the creature, of the world. Blessed, ah! truly blessed and holy is the discipline that prostrates your spirit in the dust. There it is that He reveals the secret of His own love, and draws apart the veil of His own loveliness. There it is that He brings the soul deeper into the experience of His sanctifying truth; and, with new forms of beauty and expressions of endearment, allures the heart, and takes a fresh possession of it for Himself. And there, too, it is that the love, tenderness, and grace of the Holy Spirit are better known. As a Comforter, as a Revealer of Jesus, we are, perhaps, more fully led into an acquaintance with the work of the Spirit in seasons of soul-abasement than at any other time. The mode and time of His divine manifestation are thus beautifully predicted: “He shall come down like rain on the mown grass; as showers that water the earth.” Observe the gentleness, the silence, and the sovereignty of His operation—“He shall come down like rain.” How characteristic of the blessed Spirit’s grace! Then mark the occasion on which He descends—it is at the time of the soul’s deep prostration. The waving grass is mowed—the lovely flower is laid low—the fruitful stem is broken—that which was beautiful, fragrant, and precious is cut down—the fairest first to fade, the loveliest first to die, the fondest first to depart; then, when the mercy is gone, and the spirit is bowed, when the heart is broken, the mind is dejected, and the world seems clad in wintry desolation and gloom, the Holy Spirit, in all the softening, reviving, comforting, and refreshing influence of His grace, descends, speaks of the beauty of Jesus, leads to the grace of Jesus, lifts the bowed soul, and reposes it on the bosom of Jesus.

Precious and priceless, then, beloved, are the seasons of a believer’s humiliation. They tell of the soul’s emptiness, of Christ’s fullness; of the creature’s insufficiency, of Christ’s all-sufficiency; of the world’s poverty, of Christ’s affluence; they create a necessity which Jesus supplies, a void which Jesus fills, a sorrow which Jesus soothes, a desire which Jesus satisfies. They endear the cross of the incarnate God, they reveal the hidden glory of Christ’s humiliation, they sweeten prayer, and lift the soul to God; and then, “truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son, Jesus Christ.” Are you as a bruised flower? are you as a broken stem? Does some heavy trial now bow you in the dust? Oh never, perhaps, were you so truly beautiful—never did your grace send forth such fragrance, or your prayers ascend with so sweet an odor—never did faith, and hope, and love develop their hidden glories so richly, so fully as now! In the eye of a wounded, a bruised, and a humbled Christ, you were never more lovely, and to His heart never more precious than now—pierced by His hand, smitten by His rod, humbled by His chastisement, laid low at His feet, condemning yourself, justifying Him, taking to yourself all the shame, and ascribing to Him all the glory.