Craig A McKay
1 Samuel 3: 1-11
Genesis 22: 1-14
Mark 15: 13-19, 33-34
I have in mind to say something about the repetitions of these names. I think there are ten references in the scriptures where names are repeated, and seven of them are God calling persons, which is very interesting. The cry we read in Mark’s account (referred to in three of the gospels) is the Lord Jesus speaking to His God, “My God, my God”; and another instance is the Lord Jesus speaking of His longings for the city Jerusalem. The intensity of these cries of the Lord Jesus put me in mind of the definite and clear way that God is calling you and me in the gospel.
By way of introduction perhaps we could say a little about the background to the hymn we have sung together -
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way
These hymns are wonderful, but sometimes they become too familiar to us; familiarity is not always a good thing because there is a danger that the words just wash over us. The immensity of what God has accomplished in the death of Christ and secured as a result in the souls of men and women and boys and girls must not lose its import to us. The original of this hymn was written by a man called Horatio Spafford, once a wealthy lawyer in Chicago, and married with a little boy and four girls. First his son died of scarlet fever, which was an awful sadness to him. Then there was a great fire in Chicago which burnt down the property in which he had invested. Having lost much of his money, he sent his wife and four daughters away to England, and while they were crossing the Atlantic, their ship went down: the four girls died and his wife sent him a telegram, “Saved alone”. What a further terrible sorrow to him. As he was crossing the Atlantic himself to be with his wife, the captain pointed out the spot where they believed the ship had gone down in the earlier crossing, and he went straight to his cabin and penned this most comforting and triumphant hymn. What I present to you, dear friend, is not a glorious impossibility, it is a reality. The gospel has had its effect on men and women. That man penned this hymn in praise to God that his sins were forgiven, and that he knew the Lord Jesus as his Saviour. He had known something of ‘peace like a river’; perhaps referring to Isaiah 66: 12 where it speaks about God pouring out peace like a river. Have you known something of that for yourself? The river is endless, is not it? Some look to trace them to their sources but if we are standing beside a river it is just pouring forth. We are glad to know ‘peace like a river’. But then that man knew ‘sorrows like sea billows’. Can you imagine being on that ship? He had seen where his family had been lost. He had lost a little boy, he had lost his four daughters: how he felt that - sea billows rolled. These were the sorrows that he felt but, whatever his lot, God had taught him to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Can you say that, dear friend? Can you say ‘It is well with my soul’? Whatever happens in this life, if you have the Lord Jesus as your Saviour, you can say ‘it is well with my soul’. The hymn-writer was not thinking about the grave, he was not thinking about his sorrows exactly: he was thinking about the Lord Jesus coming. It is a triumphant hymn
for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal.
What a prospect, dear friend, and it is open to you today! Yes, this hymn was written over one hundred years ago, but it is still as current: the Lord Jesus is unchanged, He is ready, willing and able to save you.
Where we first read, God is speaking to a boy, a young boy. God is speaking to you, dear young friend, dear young boy, dear young girl: God is interested in you. The world perhaps knows little of you: you are of little consequence to the world yet, you are not a great man or a great woman fit to shape the world, but God is interested in you. God wants to have something to do with you. This boy was ministering to Jehovah: God took account of that. I might say simply he was like someone coming to the meetings. He did not know the Lord yet, but he was coming to the meetings. He was doing what his mother had bid him to do and God took account of it, and God called him. How wonderful that is: do you have a sense that God is calling you tonight, calling your name, that the Lord Jesus, your Saviour, is calling your name, tenderly, softly? This was a time like our own, like the day in which the Lord Jesus is rejected in the world generally. We do not face reproach here in the sense that we are beaten and stoned, but there is intellectual reproach. People might say, ‘You have faith in God; why would you - a foolish thing like that? We have science to tell us how the world was made and yet you speak of faith in God - how foolish!’. The apostle Paul tells us that God is able to save us “by the foolishness of the preaching”, 1 Cor 1: 21. Men might think it is foolishness. So there is a reproach in confessing the name of the Lord Jesus, but we get a little power as we do it; and perhaps we do not do it enough. If someone says, ‘Will you come and do this?’, do we ask the Holy Spirit for the courage to say, ‘I love the Lord Jesus and I just do not want to do that’? They will no longer be interested, but then there is reproach, they no longer are interested in your friendship. But they may think about what they say in front of you the next time. But how blessed to know the Lord Jesus as your Saviour! So we have this little boy, Samuel: it was in a time when God’s word was rare, it says, “a vision was not frequent”, 1 Sam 3: 1. That is perhaps like the world in which we live today, because God has been by-passed by men. God’s righteous feelings about sin and morality are ignored in the world in which we live, but are you going to swim against the current like this boy Samuel, who, when Jehovah called to him, “Samuel, Samuel”, said “Speak, for thy servant heareth”? What a word this little boy got! Jehovah told him intimately; He was going to give a word to the people that both the ears of everyone that heard it were going to tingle. What a word Jehovah was going to speak, and He communicated that to a boy. Well, I just wanted to appeal to young ones, to boys and girls, to come to know the Lord Jesus as your Saviour, not to be afraid of the trends in the world, not to be afraid of what classmates and others would say about the Lord Jesus and your love of Him; but to put your faith and trust in Him so that you can say,
It is well, it is well with my soul,
and you will know something of that peace for yourself. Perhaps you will know something of sorrows in your life too, but you will have the Lord Jesus as your Saviour, you will prove Him and His love. Put your faith and trust in Him when you are young.
We read too about Abraham: I suppose we would say he was already a believer, but God was going to try him; the footnote says ‘tested’: what a testing this was. The writer of our hymn was tested; perhaps you are tested in your life. Is your faith going to remain firm? Are you going to be encouraged even at this time in this gospel preaching that God knows what He is doing, God has a plan for you, and all you need to do is put your faith and trust in Him? Abraham was an old man at this point and he had a son, Isaac, whom he loved. God had promised that Isaac would be born and from him there would be a great multitude: Abraham’s seed would be vast as the sand on the sea shore. So Abraham takes God at His word and he goes and takes Isaac his son. It says, “Abraham rose early in the morning”: he did not deliberate. What a thing that is to have a sense of God speaking to you and to answer to it. Do not delay in the gospel preaching; do not even wait until tomorrow morning. If you do not know the Lord Jesus as your Saviour, hear His cry, He is speaking to you tonight; answer His call as He calls your name, put your faith and trust in Him. Do not delay because we do not know when He is coming again. It is a solemn thought: there is an urgency in the preaching, but it is good news! So Abraham went and he took Isaac and, as he reached for the knife and was about to slay his son, God said, ‘No’. God does not ask that of us: He reserved that sacrifice for Himself: He did not spare His own Son, but He would not cause us to do a thing like that. God is not a God like that, no matter what people in the world would say about Him. Why does He cause wars and strife, they say? God does not do that; God has sympathy for His creature. God created you, He loves you, and He wants blessing for you. That is why He gave the Lord Jesus for you: He does not want misery; He is a God of love. So He said, “Abraham, Abraham!”. There is urgency in that word and Abraham answered just like Samuel did, “Here am I”. “Stretch not out thy hand against the lad”; how tender the feelings of God. Abraham looks, and there is a “ram caught in the thicket by its horns”. What does that mean? The ram is a very magnificent-looking animal and there it was, caught and held by its horns. Scriptures are very suggestive. If you are not familiar with them, even as you read them, perhaps you feel that tingling that God spoke to Samuel about. Do you get that tingling, that sense that God is speaking to you? There is something more in it: this is not a story: this is not a cleverly imagined fable, this is God speaking to you. That ram: is it suggestive to you of something? If it is, I would go further and say that perhaps the Holy Spirit of God is working with you, causing you to think of the Lord Jesus, because that is what this ram speaks about. I would suggest to you that, if the Holy Spirit is working with you, you do not spurn His work: answer the call, pick up your Bible, read a few verses, speak to the Lord Jesus, confess your need of Him, tell Him you are a sinner. You cannot enumerate all your sins; He does not need you to: tell Him you are a sinner and you have a need of Him; and put your faith in Him. Then receive the Holy Spirit and you will be able to understand the scriptures in a fuller way, understand the One of whom they speak. So the Lord Jesus is the ram caught in the thicket by its horns, the One for whom there was no substitute, held in divine love for you and me.
We read of Him in Mark’s gospel: I was drawn to it because of the particular reference “Eloi”. In other gospels it says “Eli”, but here it is “Eloi” which means ‘My God, My God’, it is very personal. Think of the feelings of the Lord Jesus. We read about Him earlier in the gospel: the crown of thorns, what the Lord Jesus endured from men - what mockery! Who was He? Who is Jesus? He is God’s own Son, the Son of God, a divine Person come here to earth. We learn from the Scriptures that He was the One by whom God made the worlds, Heb 1: 2. What a One is the Lord Jesus; what power is His. Remember we spoke about the ram caught in the thicket by its horns? Power was seen in the Lord Jesus, power and splendour in creation. Think of the variety in creation; men cannot exhaust the heights of heaven, they are finding new stars all the time, finding new things every year in the depths of the oceans. Oh the power of the Lord Jesus! In fact, the captain said to the hymn-writer, ‘It is three miles deep at this point’: think of the depths of the ocean. The Lord Jesus knows these things: He is the One who has measured the deep. He has gone to the bottoms of the mountains, gone to the heart of the seas (Jonah 2: 3, 6), and I know that He has done that for me. What a One He is, dear friend, wonderful One! People speak of Him as “Jesus” and that is right, “thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins”, Matt 1: 21. He has many names: the Lord Jesus, Jesus Christ; people take some of these names in vain, but what a One He is! Where we began in Mark we see Him as a lowly Man and here for the will of God, knowing exactly what that will meant: that He was going to die. He knew that the whole of His life, and yet He went through with God’s will for Him. What a blessed One He is! Do you know Him? There is no other name “under heaven which is given among men by which we must be saved”, Acts 4: 12. There is no other, but what a One to put your faith and trust in! He is One who set His face as a flint (Isa 50: 7), as a hard stone: He is a rock. He speaks of a man who dug and went deep and built his house on the rock: that rock is the Lord Jesus, Matt 7: 24, 25. He is a nail in a sure place (Isa 22: 23) - One fastened that cannot be moved: that is the Lord Jesus. He is the “Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last” (Rev 22: 13); “the same yesterday, and today, and to the ages to come”, Heb 13: 8. What a One is the Lord Jesus, yet here we see Him as a lowly Man, a real Man with the feelings of a Man, enduring the mockery of a trial. No justice was given to Jesus. Then in further mockery, they clothed Him with purple, the imperial colour, which the Lord had every right to wear, and He will wear it in a coming day. But they mocked Him, plaited a crown of thorns, put it on His head. Do you think about that? Is the gospel so familiar to you now that it has no affect on you? I trust not, dear friend. They took the robe off Jesus and they crucified Him, nailed Him to a cross, lifted Him up. I heard a preacher say that Jesus hung on the cross in the heat of that eastern sun. You think of the Middle East at midday: there was Jesus, hanging on the cross. He is God, He was all-powerful, indeed He was, but He was a real Man and it was as Man He suffered for my sins. These sufferings in the first three hours were not what took away my sins but, nonetheless, they were endured by Jesus. Where we read in verse 33 from the sixth hour to the ninth hour is where God had to do with Jesus in relation to my sins. God took account of sin in perfect righteousness. He knew what lay upon the human race. He poured out His judgment on the head of Jesus and the Lord Jesus exhausted it. Naturally speaking, it might all seem a little strange, an offering for sin. I heard someone say recently: ‘sin, that sounds a bit Victorian’! That is what people think today, that the idea of sin is not relevant now. People speak jovially about ‘living in sin’ with no regard to God’s feelings. God feels such things and, more importantly, He feels things in your life. Is your life in order before God? Have you put your faith and trust in Jesus? Have all your sins been washed away: are you conscious of that? Dear friend, that is what is needed from the gospel: it is very personal. It is not about looking at the next person. Sometimes we sit under a word and we think, that is just what so-and-so needs. Dear friend, the gospel is what you need, it is what I need because it deals with my sins.
Then there is this solemn, affecting cry, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”. Jesus says, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”. What does that mean? What is the significance? We might pray to God our Father and to the Lord Jesus in the morning, we might even remember Him in the middle of the day, we might give thanks for our food. We might be passing through a time of pressure which causes us to pray more often in the day. We may feel the Lord has placed an exercise upon us - perhaps it is family, perhaps it is work - that might even cause us to pray many times in a day. The Lord Jesus was in communion with His God and Father at all times. Think of the Father’s feelings about such a Man who was in communion with Him at every moment of every day. What a blessed One is the Lord Jesus: what perfect humanity! I would encourage you to pray, to be simple about it, to start your morning on your knees: ask the Father for strength for the day and the Lord Jesus to be near. Perhaps we are aware a problem is about to come up; we can ask the Lord Jesus for help that we might be a testimony, that there might be something of Him seen in the way we react, the way that we deal with others. People might know you are a believer and they may see that you do a thing a certain way and they may think, ‘Well, that is a kind of life I do not have’. I would like to be like that. Would you not like to be a faithful one with whom the Holy Spirit is free, so that your life is different, changed. And so the Lord Jesus was like that perfectly in every day, in constant communion except here at the cross we find there are three hours of darkness, three hours when God was forsook this blessed, lowly Man and Jesus was deprived of that communion with His God. Do you have some feeling as to the immensity of this, that the One who was the blessed Son of God went through this great transaction, and it was felt by Him and it was felt by God, in order that your sins and mine - not His own, He had none, He was perfect - might be met in their entirety? The blood of Jesus was shed: God saw it and He was satisfied. My sins are washed away; I can say that, can you? Can you say, ‘I am cleansed and redeemed’. I trust that you can.
That was the burden of the word, dear friend. I trust there is a sense of urgency, and a desire to answer to the feelings of God in your life, that there might be more of a response in this day in which we live: how needful it is. You might think that in times gone by there were more believers - outwardly, it seemed, there were more churches and so on. How much more need God has of men and women, boys and girls, who are here speaking about the Lord Jesus and seeking to be like Him in their lives. It will be for your blessing as you put your faith and trust in Jesus, as you receive the Holy Spirit into your life. May it be your portion today, for the Lord’s name’s sake.
29th June 2014