‘And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts.’ Haggai 2:7 SUGGESTED FURTHER READING: Micah 4:1–5
A character of the Messiah: the desire of all nations. He is called the desire of all nations because the rumour of the prophecies spread abroad had awakened the expectations and desires of many, in different nations, that some great deliverer and friend of mankind was at hand. The sense of many prophecies of the Messiah, though misapplied, is remarkably expressed in a short poem of Virgil written a few years before our Saviour’s birth, and of which we have a beautiful translation in the English language by Mr Pope. It affords a sufficient proof that the heathens had an idea of some great personage who would shortly appear and would restore peace, prosperity and the blessings of their fancied golden age to mankind. On this account he was the desire of nations. But, the need all the nations had of such a Saviour is sufficient to establish his right to this title, though they had no knowledge of him. If a nation was involved in the darkness of night, though they had no previous notion of light, yet light might be said to be their desire—because the light, whenever they should enjoy it, would put an end to their calamity, would answer their wants, and therefore accomplish their wishes; for if they could not directly wish for light, they would naturally wish for relief. The heathens were miserably bewildered—they had desires after happiness which could not be satisfied—they had fears and forebodings of conscience, but knew no remedy. They paid a blind devotion to idols because they were ignorant of the true God. When the Messiah came, as he was the Glory of Israel, so he was a Light to the Gentiles. He, therefore, who came purposely to bless the nations and turn their darkness into light, might justly be called their desire, though before his appearance they could form no just conception of him. What a nation was ours at the time of his birth—how evil, how wretched! And what a change has his gospel wrought!
FOR MEDITATION: Is the desire of all nations the object of your desire?
We begin by trusting our ignorance and calling it innocence, by trusting our innocence and calling it purity; and when we hear these rugged statements of Our Lord’s, we shrink and say—‘But I never felt any of those awful things in my heart.’ We resent what Jesus Christ reveals. Either Jesus Christ is the supreme Authority on the human heart, or He is not worth paying any attention to. Am I prepared to trust His penetration, or do I prefer to trust my innocent ignorance? If I make conscious innocence the test, I am likely to come to a place where I find with a shuddering awakening that what Jesus Christ said is true, and I shall be appalled at the possibility of evil and wrong in me. As long as I remain under the refuge of innocence, I am living in a fool’s paradise. If I have never been a blackguard, the reason is a mixture of cowardice and the protection of civilized life; but when I am undressed before God, I find that Jesus Christ is right in His diagnosis. The only thing that safeguards is the Redemption of Jesus Christ. If I will hand myself over to Him, I need never experience the terrible possibilities that are in my heart. Purity is too deep down for me to get to naturally: but when the Holy Spirit comes in, He brings into the centre of my personal life the very Spirit that was manifested in the life of Jesus Christ, viz. Holy Spirit, which is unsullied purity.
“For we through the Spirit by faith wait for the hope of righteousness.” (Gal. 5:5, R. V.)
THERE are times when things look very dark to me—so dark that I have to wait even for hope. It is bad enough to wait in hope. A long-deferred fulfillment carries its own pain, but to wait for hope, to see no glimmer of a prospect and yet refuse to despair; to have nothing but night before the casement and yet to keep the casement open for possible stars; to have a vacant place in my heart and yet to allow that place to be filled by no inferior presence—that is the grandest patience in the universe. It is Job in the tempest; it is Abraham on the road to Moriah; it is Moses in the desert of Midian; it is the Son of man in the Garden of Gethsemane. There is no patience so hard as that which endures, “as seeing him who is invisible”; it is the waiting for hope. Thou hast made waiting beautiful; Thou has made patience divine. Thou hast taught us that the Father’s will may be received just because it is His will. Thou hast revealed to us that a soul may see nothing but sorrow in the cup and yet may refuse to let it go, convinced that the eye of the Father sees further than its own. Give me this Divine power of Thine, the power of Gethsemane. Give me the power to wait for hope itself, to look out from the casement where there are no stars. Give me the power, when the very joy that was set before me is gone, to stand unconquered amid the night, and say, “To the eye of my Father it is perhaps shining still.” I shall reach the climax of strength when I have learned to wait for hope.—George Matheson. Strive to be one of those—so few—who walk the earth with ever-present consciousness—all mornings, middays, star-times—that the unknown which men call Heaven is “close behind the visible scene of things.”
‘And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.’ Genesis 5:24 SUGGESTED FURTHER READING: Hebrews 11:1–7
Enoch was dismissed from his warfare. He was not—no more seen upon earth. But God took him to walk with him in glory (Hebrews 11:5). He saw not death. He felt not the painful separation between soul and body. Some think his enemies were about to kill him and the Lord thus interposed to deliver him. It is probable. Thus it was with Elijah—the only instances afforded amongst the many millions of Adam’s posterity. In them God was pleased to give new evidence of an invisible state, and they were in that circumstance types of the ascension of the Lord Jesus. Yet he was translated. Flesh and blood cannot see the kingdom of God. Therefore, says the Apostle, speaking of those who shall be on earth when the Saviour returns and shall be caught up to meet him in the air, We shall not all die, but all must be changed, the vile mortal body made conformable to Christ’s glorious body [1 Corinthians 15:51–54]. God took him—took him for his own, took him to dwell with him in heaven, to fill him with happiness and glory. O happy end of a life spent in walking with God. Then his desires were answered, his sorrows removed, his labours and trials rewarded. Life is compared to a journey—each of you is walking, but are you walking with God? If not, where are you going? (John 12:35). O that you might, by the example of others, be made wise to consider your latter end. FOR MEDITATION: By faith in CHRIST I walk with GOD, Though snares and dangers throng my path, With heaven, my journey’s end, in view; And earth and hell my course withstand; Supported by his staff and rod, I triumph over all by faith, My road is safe and pleasant too. Guarded by his Almighty hand.
I travel through a desert wide I pity all that worldlings talk Where many round me blindly stray; Of pleasures that will quickly end; But he vouchsafes to be my guide, Be this my choice, O LORD, to walk And will not let me miss my way. With thee, my Guide, my Guard, my Friend.
When we first read the statements of Jesus they seem wonderfully simple and unstartling, and they sink unobserved into our unconscious minds. For instance, the Beatitudes seem merely mild and beautiful precepts for all unworldly and useless people, but of very little practical use in the stern workaday world in which we live. We soon find, however, that the Beatitudes contain the dynamite of the Holy Ghost. They explode, as it were, when the circumstances of our lives cause them to do so. When the Holy Spirit brings to our remembrance one of these Beatitudes we say—‘What a startling statement that is!’ and we have to decide whether we will accept the tremendous spiritual upheaval that will be produced in our circumstances if we obey His words. That is the way the Spirit of God works. We do not need to be born again to apply the Sermon on the Mount literally. The literal interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount is child’s play; the interpretation by the Spirit of God as He applies Our Lord’s statements to our circumstances is the stern work of a saint. The teaching of Jesus is out of all proportion to our natural way of looking at things, and it comes with astonishing discomfort to begin with. We have slowly to form our walk and conversation on the line of the precepts of Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit applies them to our circumstances. The Sermon on the Mount is not a set of rules and regulations: it is a statement of the life we will live when the Holy Spirit is getting His way with us.