Superabundant Love.

The Song of Solomon is a love song: it describes in beautiful words and word pictures the mutual love between Christ and the believer. One of the most beautiful things about this love is its mutuality. It is always two-way. Christ loves the believer, and the believer loves Christ. This does not mean that this love is equally strong on both sides, because it never is, and cannot be. From its very beginning it was not evenly balanced. We are actually told what it was like in its very beginnings. In 1 John 4:19.we read, “We love Him, because He first loved us”. That is a wonderful source  of assurance to us, because His love is enduring and not dependent on our love. In fact our love for Him is always a reaction to His love for us, and we are often overwhelmed by it.

This comes out, for example, in Song of Solomon chapter 2, verse 4: “He brought me to the banqueting house, and His banner over me was love”. As a sinner, this believer would have been eternally grateful for the forgiveness of all her sins, but she is now saying that Christ has gone away beyond this in His love for her. He has brought her to a banqueting house. Few of us have experienced a real banquet where the table is laden with the best of everything, no expense spared. This believer feels that Christ has brought her to a gospel banquet, where the table is laden with blessings. We are certainly not reading too much into this when we say that she is humbled by His generosity, and her heart is filled with love for Him. She could say with the Psalmist, “You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies. My cup is running over” (Psalm 23:5). Her love is in response to His great love, and that is the way it always is, and probably will be for all eternity. Let us look briefly at some of the blessings on this gospel table.

There is, above all the forgiveness of all our sins, past, present and future. This forgiveness is more than just a bare forgiveness. It is what we call a justifying salvation. God’s justice has been fully satisfied by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross to the extent that further charges would be unjust, even on the part of God Himself. “There is now therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). It is as if you sat down at the banquet table at the place reserved for you, and on the name card it says your name with the words added, “NO CONDEMNATION”, declaring that you are as RightWithGod as it is possible for you to be. Truly, His banner over us is love.

Then there is adoption into the family of God. We become children of God by adoption the moment we are saved, “Heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8: 17). Paul tells us the wonderful final purpose of this. It is that Christ “might be the firstborn among many brethren”.  Why all this for undeserving sinners? There is only one answer: His banner over us is love.

There are many more blessings on this table, but we shall take just one more: sanctification; that is, being made holy. We tend to look on sanctification as a great burden on us, but it is in fact a blessing. It is God working in us by His holy Spirit to make us more like Christ. God will progress and finish that work. Indeed it is already purchased for us by Christ. It will happen. It is guaranteed to everyone who is saved. God puts in us the desire to be holy. He creates in us a strong urge to be holy like Christ Himself: “Every man that has this hope in Him purifies himself, even as He (Christ) is pure” (1 John 3: 3). His great love for us makes us long to be like Him.

Let us feed at His table continually, enjoying the inexhaustible blessings of His word, remembering that His banner over us is love.


The Brother in the Field

The parable of the ‘Prodigal Son’ which we looked at last week would be far more appropriately titled, ‘The Parable of the Two Sons’. Indeed, the Lord introduces the parable with the words, “A certain man had two sons” (Luke 15: 11). There is no doubt that this parable is inexhaustible as a source of gospel sermons, even when we concentrate on the younger brother as we did last week. However, there is much to be gained by comparing and contrasting the two sons.

Both were born from the same womb, had the same up-bringing and the same parental examples. As time went on the difference between the two became more and more marked. The elder brother was very industrious, serving his father faithfully over many years (verse 29). He was a hard, diligent worker, always to be found in the place of duty, working in the fields. In many ways, he was an ideal son, the kind that any parent would wish to have, always faithful and obedient, and content with his lot at home

The younger brother turned out to be very different, becoming more and more discontented with his lot, until finally he had enough, took his share of his father’s estate, left home, and became a ‘waster’ in the anonymity of a country far away from home: a dangerous situation for any young person to put himself in.

By contrast, the elder brother never strayed from the pathway of ‘duty’, toiling faithfully in the father’s field from year to year. One can imagine the conversations at the meal table. Very likely much of it would be contrasting the two brothers. Sadly this would have ministered to the inevitably increasing pride and self-righteousness of the elder brother. This pride and self-righteousness breaks out one day when he returns from the field and finds that his father has received the younger brother back home, and was organising a celebration for him. The elder brother’s anger was now directed at the father, not at the younger brother. What was the cause of his anger? It was that his ‘waster’ brother was being rewarded simply for returning home, whereas he had remained at home and worked faithfully for his father for many years without receiving any such reward.

This is illustrative of the problem that many have with the gospel. They think that God has an obligation to recognise and reward their good works, service to the community and to the church, and for their general goodness, uprightness and decency. They are filled with pride and self-righteousness, and they burn with anger against God because He makes it clear in His word that they actually have their reward in this life in the approval of men, and self-satisfaction. The problem is that God does not promise them heaven after death, but rather an eternity of torment. They sometimes see a ‘waster’ like the younger brother turning from his sins and being received by God and getting assurance of being forgiven for all their sins on account of what Christ has done for them. They receive the ‘best robe’, the righteousness of Christ, instead of any righteousness of their own and they are given assurance that they are RightWithGod, and that their final home will be heaven. The self-righteous hate such dealing on the part of God, and they are forever angry, and forever miserable because they refuse God’s way and God’s wonderful provision for sinners in Jesus Christ and Him crucified,


The Love that Never Gives up

Sometimes we find ourselves asking the question, Why is God bothering with me at all when He must so often be disappointed with me? I forget Him so often, but He never forgets me. I often wander from the pathway He has laid out for me in His word,  but He, in His own way draws me back. I often fail Him when He gives me the opportunity to present Christ; fear and Satan’s whispers cause me to lose courage, and I let the opportunity pass, but He still presents me with further opportunities. The pull of the world sometimes draws me away, but He draws me back by making me miserable in the world. There is only one answer to these questions, that is, the nature of God’s love. It is so different from our love, because it is unquenchable, unconditional, and everlasting. Happy are those who experience this love, that never gives up, that always wins. We have a wonderful illustration of this love in Luke 15: 11 to 24, in the parable that we call “the Prodigal Son”, although that title is not given to it in the Bible.

It is a lovely story from a human point of view, which tells of the love of an earthly father for his ‘difficult’ younger son. However, we have to seek from it the spiritual lessons that the Lord meant us to learn, keeping in mind that the earthly story can never fully represent the spiritual truth which it is meant to teach. It illustrates the love of God the Father for the one on whom He has set His love. The parable is given as a rebuke to the Pharisees and scribes who complained about the Lord Jesus, saying, “This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them”.

This younger of two sons had a good upbringing, in a home where there were certain restrictions which were put in place by the  head of the household. This is always a mark of a loving upbringing. However this son began to hear about the world outside, and he felt the pull. It all seemed so attractive compared to the restrictions of home. Thus Satan entices the sinner, who has had a godly upbringing, and draws him into the world. The surprising thing is that the earthly father does not put up any resistance, but gives him his share of the estate there and then. This is spiritually instructive in that God often allows such a person to go on a detour into the world, knowing that He is able to make him miserable in the world, rather than happy. The earthly father is not able to guarantee this. All he can do is hope and pray, his eye continually on the horizon where he last saw his son go out of sight, hoping that one day his greatly loved son would reappear.

God, on the other hand, is able to make the one on whom He has set His love to become so miserable in the world, that he hates it. Not only that, but God is able to bring such a person to a moment of truth, where he says to himself, ‘What a fool I have been!’ He repents of his sins, and turns in hope to God, content to be even on the fringes of God’s favoured ones, as long as he is RightWithGod. The reception that the earthly Father gives is exquisitely beautiful. As soon as he sees him, he runs to meet his son, now smelling of the pig-sty, and he falls on his neck and kisses him. The father brings him home and pours upon Him all his love.So the sinner on whom God has set his love, is made miserable in the world, brought to repentance, and showered with every blessing in Christ. God’s love has never lost its intensity, because it is unquenchable, unconditional, and everlasting.


“The Joyful Sound”

Our title comes from Psalm 89, verse 15: “Blessed are the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk in the light of thy countenance”. We all have our favourite passages in the Bible, and that is a good thing, because God gives these to his children as special blessings, and tokens of His favour. One of my favourite passages is verses 13 to 18 in this Psalm.

What is the ‘joyful sound’ in verse 15? Such phrases are impossible to define with mathematical accuracy, and perhaps that is a good thing. Nevertheless it is a sound that can be ‘known’, and those who know it are a ‘blessed’ people. Why? Because, they are saved. Only the saved know this sound. This ties in with Revelation 14, which speaks of the ‘hundred and forty-four thousand’, a symbolic number to describe the whole number of the saved. In verse 3, it says about them that, they sang a new song; but it says about the song that ‘no man could learn that song’ but the saved. The important thing is, not that none but the saved could sing that song, but that no man could learn that song except the saved. This  surely ties in with our text which says, ‘blessed are the people that know the joyful sound’.The fact underlying these things is that there are secret things between God and the believer, that are only known between the two; and cannot be shared with anyone else. In Psalm 25, verse 14, we read: “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him; and He will show them His covenant”.  The joyful sound we are discussing is surely a part at least of that secret. It indicates to each individual believer that they are a child of God. It confirms it to them. It assures them that they are RightWithGod.

What is the joy of this sound? It is certainly a joy to have it, and it is a joy to enjoy it. There is no greater joy than to know that we are saved. But the really special thing about this joy is that it is absolutely peculiar to each individual believer. Other believers may see something of that joy in you, but you cannot convey it to them. They have their own ‘joyful sound’, but they cannot convey it to you.  If you know it, it is between you and God alone. He has given it to you, a token to you particularly of His special love. There can surely be no doubt that this is an example of God’s Spirit bearing witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God Romans 8:16). There are, of course, songs that we joyfully sing together which speak of our great salvation, but the ‘joyful sound’ that we are discussing is different, and separate.

Those happy people who know this joyful sound have a special relationship with God. The second part of the verse describes this: “They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance”. It is not just that they walk with God; this says more. It speaks of the spiritual light that shines from the face of God upon every true believer, as they continue their pilgrimage in this life.