2 Corinthians 4: 13-18
Isaiah 58: 8-12
I have been thinking a little since one of our local readings last week as to David in 2 Samuel, his grievous failings and what we speak of as the Psalm of contrition, Psalm 51. David speaks to the Lord of need in himself for restoration and renewal. I was thinking on those lines as to the need for renewal, which in God’s goodness we experience in our own souls. The apostle who is writing here is quoting one of the Psalms, “I have believed, therefore have I spoken”, Ps 116: 10. He spoke of what he believed in, what he had experienced and what he had laid hold of through faith. He spoke of those things, spoke of what he knew; and his authority was in being fully persuaded as having a knowledge of the things which he presented. He was an elect vessel, and he said, “we also believe, therefore also we speak; knowing” - how positive a statement it is, how positive is the word “knowing” - “that he who has raised the Lord Jesus shall raise us also with Jesus, and shall present us with you”. Then he goes on that, “the grace abounding through the many may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. Wherefore we faint not”. He was conscious of the outward man as we are, increasingly so as we get older. If we are left here some of us in our younger years will go the same way, but we are conscious of these things, the frailty and limitation of our earthly tabernacle. But he says, “yet the inward is renewed day by day”. That is a wonderful thing. How great it is to have some sense of that in our soul. David fell so grievously that you might be surprised when you read that chapter in Samuel. We ought not to be since we are not made of anything different to David. He says, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and let a willing spirit sustain me”, Ps 51: 12. Those were genuine words of David’s. It was not David repeating some mantra, it was right from the very soul of David that he could say that. The enemy would have come at him and said, ‘you will never recover from that David, you will never be able to stand upright again, you will never be able to show your face; you will never be the same the man as you were before’; and I suppose in a way he was not. In God’s wonderful ways David had learned something about himself which in God’s sovereign way advanced His own work within the man’s soul. It is God’s prerogative to do that. It is not, as we often stress, that we would put any premium on sinning, but God in His wonderful ways can bring us to that; God can strengthen us in relation to the very things that we fail at. We often quote Peter where he preaches so powerfully: he says, “ye denied the holy and righteous one”, Acts 3: 14. What had Peter done? But there was no stain left on his soul as to that. Think of the Lord Jesus appearing first to Peter and that private interview which He had with him, and everything being settled, Luke 24: 34. I think it is a wonderful thing that we can experience this in our own souls; it is renewal. We have in Isaiah, “He wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the instructed”, Isa 50: 4. I think we can be so thankful for the fresh mornings that we have, a new start to the week that we have on the Lord’s day, and then every morning there is an opportunity afforded us for renewal.
Speaking practically you might see a brother or sister you have not seen for some time. It may be five or six years since you last saw them and your first impression is that they are failing, they are becoming older, and then they speak about the Lord’s things and you realise that there is something there that is not failing; something there that is substantial in the soul, which not only is not failing, but is advancing, and growing, and it is better than ever. A relation of mine was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. His mind was almost gone, and yet at the Supper everything cleared and his part was fresher than I had ever known it before. That is a remarkable thing to lay hold of and to witness, the sovereign work of God in a soul that is going on.
Paul speaks here as to “the inward is renewed day by day”. What a wonderful thing. We experience that in a practical way, the support and the power of the Holy Spirit joining His help to our weakness. Then he goes on and says, “our momentary and light affliction” - it is an amazing thing that he could say that, Paul the apostle. Think of how he suffered! He enumerates his sufferings to the Corinthians, 2 Cor 11: 23-28. It seems on the face of it a remarkable thing that he could speak of it as a “momentary and light affliction”. That is because he had another world in mind, as he goes on to say, “works for us in surpassing measure an eternal weight of glory”. He has a spiritual view of a heavenly realm of things so that things down here are very temporary and they assume their correct proportion in his souls. I think it is good for us to ask God to give us another perspective on things, on practical situations in our day to day living or in our localities, in our households, to experience something of the renewal by the Spirit so that we would be able to look at things from a fresh perspective. I often think of that scripture, “Come, look from the top of Amanah”, Song of Songs 4: 8. Look at the things from the heights, so that they are operating in our souls in the power of the Spirit, so that we might increasingly have God’s perspective on things. He says, “while we look not at the things that are seen, but at the things that are not seen; for the things that are seen are for a time”, they are temporary, they are passing. It is a passing scene but what he has in mind are those things that are not seen that are eternal. The things that are not seen had become more real in the apostle’s heart and soul than that which surrounded him, so that he was not detained by things down here. It is not that he ceased to care for them, the practical needs of the saints, but held it all lightly. He travelled lightly with the world to come in mind. He was one of the ‘Strangers below and citizens above’, that the hymn refers to, Hymn 284.
The section in Isaiah is a scripture that I find very attractive. I think there is a word for encouragement here, something for each of us to be going in for. The writer is speaking about the possibility that “the glory of Jehovah shall be thy rearguard”, and Jehovah hearing the cry of His own. He “will guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought”. There can be no doubt in anyone in whom God has begun a work that we are in a scene where there is a drought. Scripture speaks of “a famine in the land; not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of Jehovah, Amos 8: 11. It is not, thank God, that the word of God is not still readily available in this country, that is part of His grace, but we can go through this scene in the power of the Spirit and not be marked by the scene around us. That is set before as a possibility. We are told often that we get like the company we keep, and that age has its effect on us. I do not think these things are inevitable, we have the Spirit and He goes on. This is the portion I so enjoy, “And they that come of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations that have remained from generation to generation”, that which was always there. We speak often of the recovery and maintenance of the truth: the truth stands. Paul said, “We can do nothing against the truth” (2 Cor 13: 8), but it is a question of where we are in relation to the truth, the truth as it is contained in Christ. It is a question of what my value is of the wonderful wealth and the inheritance which is ours, which we have come into. “Others have laboured, and ye have entered into their labours”, John 4: 38. We do not want to be just second and third generation Christians, the vitality is to remain with us. That is normal Christianity, the vitality of what we have been bought into should remain with us and should be seen in each generation following, that we possess for ourselves those things that have existed from generation to generation. It would be a wonderful thing to be called a repairer or restorer. It is something I covet, something I cannot say I possess. There is always the glory of self to be judged, (few of our motives are entirely without leaven), but I would love to be called, a “Repairer of the breaches, restorer of frequented paths”.
13th October 2007