01 September, 2008

Spiritual Advance and Hope

In the Psalms of David in Metre, the 28th Psalm concludes with a stirring petition:

O thine own people do thou save,
bless thine inheritance;
Them also do thou feed, and them
for evermore advance.

How often is such a petition upon our lips? How frequently and passionately do we plead with God to bless in this manner? That we are often in describing the evils of our present generation is beyond dispute. But how often do we seek the Lord's blessing?

This is in essence the same petition our Lord taught us to pray, "Thy kingdom come." Doubtlessly this is uttered many times throughout the day, but I wonder with what confidence or manner.

The Westminster Divines gave a brief exposition to the petition taught by our Lord.

"In the second petition, (which is, Thy kingdom come,) acknowledging ourselves and all mankind to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan, we pray, that the kingdom of sin and Satan may be destroyed, the gospel propagated throughout the world, the Jews called, the fulness of the Gentiles brought in; the church furnished with all gospel-officers and ordinances, purged from corruption, countenanced and maintained by the civil magistrate: that the ordinances of Christ may be purely dispensed, and made effectual to the converting of those that are yet in their sins, and the confirming, comforting, and building up of those that are already converted: that Christ would rule in our hearts here, and hasten the time of his second coming, and our reigning with him for ever: and that he would be pleased so to exercise the kingdom of his power in all the world, as may best conduce to these ends."

When we look at the things mentioned above, I doubt not but that we are tempted to lose hope. Take time and think of just several of these: "the Jews called, the fulness of the Gentiles brought in; the church...purged from corruption, countenanced and maintained by the civil magistrate...that Christ would rule in our hearts here..."

We live in times of great declension. Because of this there are those who anticipate little spiritual good in the future. There is almost an expectation that things will only get progressively worse for the church. Whereas such may be the case for the indefinite future, it is nonetheless troubling and disheartening to look upon faces of Christians who have lost hope. They have all but thrown away hope for any spiritual renewal or revival. "And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold."

Perhaps this loss of confidence is because there has been a loss of perspective. It would be entirely right for all to lose hope were the future contingent upon the church alone. Is there any hope for the healing of divisions, correction of error and heresy or restoration of vital piety by the work of men, however good? I for one have no such hope.

But revisit the words of the Psalm mentioned above.

O thine own people do thou save,
bless thine inheritance;
Them also do thou feed, and them
for evermore advance.


It should be clear to all that David's hope was not in himself, rulers and elders of Israel or any group of men - however numerous, wise or gifted. Rather he looked directly to Jehovah. The Psalm begins, "Unto thee will I cry, O LORD my rock". Here, then, is ground for a different story! When we look to Jehovah, God covenanted to us by promise and sealed by the blood of Jesus Christ, do we not have sufficient ground for an exuberant hope in spite of all opposition?

If there are those among us today, and I trust that there are, who desire to see Christ's kingdom come with power, here is where we must place our hope. Let us then begin to look to our God, to cry out to our rock with confidence that he hears us. Let us take in all of the evils facing us today; those evils outside the church and those evils within the church. Let us paint them in the darkest colors, most dreadful tones and hues and withhold no fitting description. Let us name all of the sins plaguing the church today: division, immorality, worldliness, lust, deception, compromise, and onward.

But, when we have done so and made an end of confessing the horrors opposing the onward march of Christ's spiritual kingdom, let us then look to the LORD our rock and cry out "Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance: feed them also, and lift them up for ever." Remember with whom we plead. Is anything too mighty for him? Is anything too difficult for him? Surely not! Do we not have this confidence, "Ask, and it shall be given you"?

Let us then ask, and continue asking until we find that the LORD of hosts visits his people with grace, truth and revival.

1 comment:

Lori Shaffer said...

Excellent, Jonathan. If you don't mind, I may link to this at some point.