"My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels."
Our blessed Lord experienced a terrible sinking and melting of soul. "The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity, but a wounded spirit who can bear?" Deep depression of spirit is the most grievous of all trials; all besides is as nothing. Well might the suffering Saviour cry to his God, "Be not far from me," for above all other seasons a man needs his God when his heart is melted within him because of heaviness. Believer, come near the cross this morning, and humbly adore the King of glory as having once been brought far lower, in mental distress and inward anguish, than any one among us; and mark his fitness to become a faithful High Priest, who can be touched with a feeling of our infirmities. Especially let those of us whose sadness springs directly from the withdrawal of a present sense of our Father's love, enter into near and intimate communion with Jesus. Let us not give way to despair, since through this dark room the Master has passed before us. Our souls may sometimes long and faint, and thirst even to anguish, to behold the light of the Lord's countenance: at such times let us stay ourselves with the sweet fact of the sympathy of our great High Priest. Our drops of sorrow may well be forgotten in the ocean of his griefs; but how high ought our love to rise! Come in, O strong and deep love of Jesus, like the sea at the flood in spring tides, cover all my powers, drown all my sins, wash out all my cares, lift up my earth-bound soul, and float it right up to my Lord's feet, and there let me lie, a poor broken shell, washed up by his love, having no virtue or value; and only venturing to whisper to him that if he will put his ear to me, he will hear within my heart faint echoes of the vast waves of his own love which have brought me where it is my delight to lie, even at his feet forever.
"The king's garden."
Mention of the king's garden by Nehemiah brings to mind the paradise which the King of kings prepared for Adam. Sin has utterly ruined that fair abode of all delights, and driven forth the children of men to till the ground, which yields thorns and briers unto them. My soul, remember the fall, for it was thy fall. Weep much because the Lord of love was so shamefully ill-treated by the head of the human race, of which thou art a member, as undeserving as any. Behold how dragons and demons dwell on this fair earth, which once was a garden of delights.
See yonder another King's garden, which the King waters with his bloody sweat--Gethsemane, whose bitter herbs are sweeter far to renewed souls than even Eden's luscious fruits. There the mischief of the serpent in the first garden was undone: there the curse was lifted from earth, and borne by the woman's promised seed. My soul, bethink thee much of the agony and the passion; resort to the garden of the olive-press, and view thy great Redeemer rescuing thee from thy lost estate. This is the garden of gardens indeed, wherein the soul may see the guilt of sin and the power of love, two sights which surpass all others.
Is there no other King's garden? Yes, my heart, thou art, or shouldst be such. How do the flowers flourish? Do any choice fruits appear? Does the King walk within, and rest in the bowers of my spirit? Let me see that the plants are trimmed and watered, and the mischievous foxes hunted out. Come, Lord, and let the heavenly wind blow at thy coming, that the spices of thy garden may flow abroad. Nor must I forget the King's garden of the church. O Lord, send prosperity unto it. Rebuild her walls, nourish her plants, ripen her fruits, and from the huge wilderness, reclaim the barren waste, and make thereof "a King's garden."
[Ä€'bĕl] - meadow, vanity or vapor.
The second son of Adam and Eve slain by his brother Cain (Gen. 4:1-15; Matt. 23:35; Heb. 11:4; 12:24).
The Man Who Was First to Die
Abel's name, meaning breath or vapor, is associated with the shortness of his life. What was his life but a vapor? (Ps. 90:6; Jas. 4:14 ) Abel was a shepherd and a possessor of flocks and herds; Cain was a tiller of the ground. It was not occupation, however, that parted these first two brothers in the world, but their conception of what was pleasing and acceptable to God. Abel feared God and because he did, he offered to God the best of his flock. His was a sacrifice of blood and represented the surrender of a heart to God. Cain brought what he had gathered from the earth, an offering representing his own effort. Because God accepted Abel's offering and not Cain's, the angry brother slew Abel in the field. But Abel's blood cried from the ground for punishment. Abel's blood is placed alongside Christ's shed blood ( Heb. 12:24), which is better than Abel's in that his blood cried out for vengeance but the blood of Christ cries out for mercy. Abel's blood, although the blood of a righteous man (Matt. 23:35), cannot atone, but Christ's blood is ever efficacious (1 John 1:7). Abel is unique among Bible men in a fourfold direction:
He was the first one of the human race to die. He was the first person on the earth to be murdered. He was the first man to be associated with Christ. He was the first saint to present an offering acceptable to God.
Abel is also the name given to geographical locations (1 Sam. 6:18; 2 Sam. 20:14).
Today's reading: 1 Samuel 19-21, Luke 11:29-54 (NIV)View today's reading on Bible Gateway
Today's Old Testament reading: 1 Samuel 19-21
Saul Tries to Kill David
1 Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan had taken a great liking to David 2 and warned him, "My father Saul is looking for a chance to kill you. Be on your guard tomorrow morning; go into hiding and stay there. 3 I will go out and stand with my father in the field where you are. I'll speak to him about you and will tell you what I find out."
4 Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, "Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what he has done has benefited you greatly.5 He took his life in his hands when he killed the Philistine. The LORD won a great victory for all Israel, and you saw it and were glad. Why then would you do wrong to an innocent man like David by killing him for no reason?"
Today's New Testament reading: Luke 11:29-54
The Sign of Jonah
29 As the crowds increased, Jesus said, "This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom; and now something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here....
For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again…. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. (2 Corinthians 5:14-19)
Many theologians have thought that reconciliation may be as important a word as any other in the biblical vocabulary of salvation. It is a word from the world of human relationships. It is that wonderful thing that sometimes happens when people at enmity with each other steer a course toward each other to confess wrongdoing, to repair a rift, to make up, to set aside differences, to cease hostilities, to reconcile.
Most people don’t really believe they are at enmity with God. They think that God is quite favorably disposed toward them. After all, why wouldn’t he be? Aren’t we quite lovable the way we are?
God’s love is not infatuation or God just being “nice.” The God of love loves the unlovable with a rigorous commitment. He loves human beings who have ignored him, thought in their arrogance that they don’t really need him, and who have been gods to themselves. God’s love sees us for who we can be, not who we are.
Christ, who had no sin, stood in the place of the sinner so that the sinner could stand before God–enmity gone, opposition put aside, friends again.
And thus we bear a message of reconciliation and we have a ministry of reconciliation. In other words when people in the world think of Christians, they ought to think: oh, yes, those are the people who are passionate about peace and reconciliation. They live in it and they live for it.
Here is the question: is that what people really do see in our attitudes and values?
Today's Lent reading: John 3-4 (NIV)View today's Lent reading on Bible Gateway
Jesus Teaches Nicodemus
1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him."
3 Jesus replied, "Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again."
4 "How can someone be born when they are old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother's womb to be born!"
5 Jesus answered, "Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit...."