Heaven A World of Love

“For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” 1 Corinthians 13:9-10

No writer, in my estimation, exudes the fragrance of Christ more than Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). Anyone who reads him will attest to this fact. It was Martyn Lloyd-Jones who said of Edwards, “He was a mighty theologian and a great evangelist at the same time.” This cannot be refuted. It is sad, however, that Edwards has been neglected among the “lesser lights” in the church. May we all be stirred to read him anew! The blessings will be inestimable! Nothing ever written on 1 Corinthians 13 could possibly exceed what Edwards wrote in Charity and Its Fruits, from which these extracts are taken:

The apostle speaks, in the text, of a state of the church when it is perfect in heaven, and therefore a state in which the Holy Spirit shall be more perfectly and abundantly given to the church than it is now on earth. And it is also a state in which this holy love or charity shall be, as it were, the only gift or fruit of the Spirit, as being the most perfect and glorious of all, and which, being brought to perfection, renders all other gifts that God was wont to bestow on his church on earth, needless.

I would consider, first, the great cause and fountain of love that is in heaven. Here I remark that the God of love himself dwells in heaven. Heaven is the palace or presence-chamber of the high and holy One, whose name is love, and who is both the cause and source of all holy love. And this renders heaven a world of love; for God is the fountain of love, as the sun is the fountain of light. The apostle tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8), and therefore, seeing he is an infinite being, it follows that he is an infinite fountain of love.

There dwells Christ, the Lamb of God, the prince of peace and of love, who so loved the world that he shed his blood, and poured out his soul unto death for men. There dwells the great Mediator, through whom all the divine love is expressed toward men. There dwells Christ in both his natures, the human and the divine, sitting on the same throne with the Father. And there this glorious fountain forever flows forth in streams, yea, in rivers of love and delight, and these rivers swell, as it were, to an ocean of love, in which the souls of the ransomed may bathe with the sweetest enjoyment, and their hearts, as it were, be deluged with love!

Second, I would consider the objects of love that heaven contains. There are none but lovely objects in heaven. No odious, or unlovely, or polluted person or thing is to be seen there. There is nothing that is wicked or unholy. “There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defiles, neither whatsoever works abomination” (Revelation 21:27).  There are many things in this world that in the general are lovely, but yet are not perfectly free from that which is the contrary. But it is not so in heaven. That blessed world shall be perfectly bright, without any darkness; perfectly fair, without any spot; perfectly clear, without any cloud. No moral or natural defect shall ever enter there; and there nothing will be seen that is sinful or weak or foolish.

The Son of God, who is the brightness of the Father’s glory, appears there in the fullness of his glory, without that garb of outward meanness in which he appeared in this world. The whole church, ransomed and purified, shall there be presented to Christ, as a bride, clothed in fine linen, clean and white, “without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing”(Ephesians 5:27). Wherever the inhabitants of that blessed world shall turn their eyes, they shall see nothing but dignity, and beauty, and glory. “And the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations were of all kinds of precious stones. The twelve gates were twelve pearls”(Revelation 21:18-21). And all these are but faint emblems of the purity and perfectness of those that dwell therein. And there, above all, we shall enjoy and dwell with Jesus Christ, our beloved Savior, who has always been to us “the chief among ten thousands, and altogether lovely” (Song of Solomon 5:10,16).

~Adapted from Jonathan Edwards, “Heaven a World of Love,” Charity and Its Fruits, pages 325-332

Note: Surely we cannot read the above precious lines from Edwards without tears of joy! And let us all sing anew very loudly, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!”

wfb (October 24, 2016)
A Scripture Meditation by W. F. Bell (1948-2018)

Pour Out Your Heart

pray-2558490_1920A Scripture Meditation by W. F. Bell (1948-2018)

“Trust in Him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:8

As Christians, we must humbly desire to pray aright. Our text is the what, the how, and the why of true prayer. Note that we must “pour out” our hearts before God! This is essential if we pray correctly. Listen to Ambrose Serle (1742-1812) on this subject: “When the mind is truly touched by grace, it will and must pray. If the heart cannot find words to carry up its request, it will send them forth in earnest groans.

Prayer can no more be kept from ascending than flame from the fire. ‘Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered’ (Romans 8:26).  The cries of a drowning man are above the formality of words, and forcibly pierce the ear for help; so the deep-felt anguish of a convinced heart is inexpressibly eager for mercy, and with moans and groans sues it out from God in right earnest.”

What powerful, searching words! Note the importance of the mind being touched by grace with heart-felt anguish, moans, and groans. We need more than “formality of words” or “florid oration” or “fine speech.” To truly pray there must be “grace” in the heart, which alone produces “earnest groans” and “tearful sighs.” The Greek text of Romans 8:26-27 further clarifies the doctrine of prayer: “groanings” is from stenazo, “to sigh,” and such “unutterable groans” are attributed to the Spirit of God making “intercession on behalf of” the saints. The work of the Holy Spirit is necessary in order “to rescue us” with “sighs that baffle words,” Paul picturing the Spirit “taking hold at our side” as our Paraclete “at the very time of our weakness” (A. T. Robertson).

Some think Jesus taught us to pray something like this: “But when you pray, tilt your head, close your eyes, and listen to the designated person leading in prayer.” Is this not sadly so? Is that the only kind of “praying” you know? But the Master taught us that true prayer is personal, spiritual, of the heart, spontaneous, done mostly in secret, and is not with “vain repetitions” or “many words” (Matthew 6:6-7). An unbeliever cannot pray! The world cannot pray (John 17:25). Bought by Christ’s blood at Calvary, the quickened children of God alone can and do truly pray.

Let us earnestly seek to know prayer’s spiritual power by “humbling ourselves” before the great and awesome Yahweh (Nehemiah 1:4-5; James 4:10). God indeed is the majestic Sovereign, before whom we must come in contrition and fear, being commanded, “Ye people, pour out your heart before Him.”  True prayer affects our hearts, often causing groans and sighs and tears, or just an “Abba, Father.” May we know this experimentally through our Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ.

A form of words may please
A sinner dead in sin;
But quickened sinners want to pray,
As prompted from within.
Gadsby’s Hymns #725

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The Prayer of Eliezer

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It should be a familiar story, but let’s call it Mission Impossible: The Bachelor. It’s the one where Abraham sends his trusted servant to find a wife for Isaac (Genesis 24). Abraham doesn’t want Isaac to marry a local Canaanite so he sends his servant on a mission to his hometown some 600 miles away. From a modern perspective it’s simply outrageous. How does a beautiful young lady (Rebekah) leave her family, and everything she’s ever known, to take off on a camel caravan across the desert to marry a man she’s never met? Yet, we know that’s exactly what happens. It’s all part of God’s plan and the story of the servant reveals much more.

The Faithful Servant
So who is this servant fellow? He’s not actually named in the passage, but he’s described very well. He’s the oldest servant in Abraham’s household and he’s in charge of all that he had. In today’s language, he would be the top employee, power of attorney, executor of his estate, and trusted advisor. Many scholars believe it’s Eliezer, mentioned in Genesis 15:2 as Eliezer of Damascus, the only heir of Abraham’s house (before Isaac was born). His name means: God is help.

Now, it’s time for the mission and he accepts it by swearing to do all that Abraham asked. It’s a mission Abraham believes God will bless and even send an angel before him, but also one where Abraham acknowledges that if she doesn’t come back his oath would be fulfilled. Eliezer’s name is no accident, he would need God’s help. It’s only the lineage of the Messiah at stake, no pressure!  

The Obedient Servant
In verse 10 Eliezer makes plans like an elderly wise man would. He prepares to go with gifts and a small caravan of camels. Since he’s from Damascus, he most likely never traveled to Abraham’s hometown in Mesopotamia. He must have become a servant when Abraham first arrived in the land of Canaan, not long after God called Abraham to leave his country and his kindred. If true, he has little knowledge of the terrain of where he’s going, but I imagine he researched it and planned it out in incredible detail, keeping in mind he had to bring a young lady back safely.  

From the plans in verse 10 to the destination in verse 11, the story progresses quickly, completely skipping his journey details, to where the camels are kneeling near a well outside the City of Nahor. However, let’s pause and consider that long journey, can you imagine the obstacles faced, the adversity overcome? Can you sense his relief of finally arriving at the target city, exhausted and thirsty, expectant, knowing the time of day the daughters would come to draw water, but unsure of what would happen? He made it in faithful obedience, but we only have one verse to know he made it.

The Prayerful Servant
Then we come to verse 12 and find Eliezer’s unique prayer, where he’s not kneeling like the camels, instead, he’s standing, eyes open, watching. This is the first recorded prayer in the Bible. There are other conversations between God and man, other visions noted, but this is the first prayer. It may seem odd that the first prayer is not from a well known character, but it’s not really that strange because we know that God chooses the humble and less obvious characters throughout the Bible to accomplish His purposes.

Another thing the writer (Moses) doesn’t tell us is how frequent Eliezer prayed during the mission, or if he was a prayer warrior. I imagine he prayed many, many times on the way, but what sticks out in the absence of this knowledge is that his faithful, obedient action precedes his specific prayer for guidance.

And he said, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.” (Genesis 24:12-14).

And here we must ask, is this a legitimate way for us to pray? Isn’t he asking for a sign and putting God to the test? What if this isn’t God’s will?

The Bible contains many prayers where God honors specific requests. One that comes to mind is Samson’s prayer in the Book of Judges where he asked for strength one last time (16:28). Of course, God, in His wisdom, may not grant our specific requests. For instance, Paul’s request to remove the thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:8). Thus, God may answer prayers exactly how we pray them, may not answer them (but like Paul – His grace is sufficient), or may answer them in a way that we don’t expect, but we should not be afraid to be very specific when we pray. In fact, we’re encouraged to go boldly before the throne of grace to find Help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Like Eliezer, we should make plans, seek wisdom, and take action, all while seeking the Lord’s guidance in prayer. Then we must trust our Great God to direct our steps and trust Him with the outcome.

The Worshipful Servant
We know that Eliezer was ultimately successful in his mission. Verse 15 tells us that before he finished praying Rebekah came out with a water jar. Then she does everything that he prays to confirm – she’s the one! And what’s amazing is before he even started to pray she had to be on her way. What a faithful God! When we see God’s faithfulness through the lens of answered prayer what does it cause us to do? Worship! And that’s exactly what he did:

The man bowed his head and worshiped the LORD and said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the LORD has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.” Then the young woman ran and told her mother’s household about these things (Genesis 24:26-28).

May we all be encouraged to be faithful, obedient, and prayerful in the service of our Master. The next time you face a seemingly impossible situation, remember how God has been faithful in the past, that He is faithful for today, and we can trust Him to be faithful in the future. Thus, we can act, pray, and cling to His promises. And when you see His faithfulness through answered prayer, worship!

 

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