The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart, and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all—Psa. 34:18, 19.
A just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again—Prov. 24:16.
If at any time we find we have taken a wrong course which is irretrievable, we may expect it to bring the disappointments, as the Lord has foretold; but He may permit it to bring, as well, some blessings in the way of contrition of heart, and humility toward the Lord, and greater zeal, watchfulness and faithfulness for the future. Thus even some of the blunders of life may become stepping-stones to higher planes of grace and truth—Z '03, 217 (R 3222).
Failures should never be permitted to discourage us. While they give evidence of weakness, against which we must be on our guard, they also bring us instruction and correction highly useful to us. In spite of them the Lord gives comfort to our hearts, assuring us of His sympathy, His forgiveness and His help in every time of need. We should rise from them as quickly as possible, and, undaunted, go forward in the Lord's name—P '26, 95.
Parallel passages: Deut. 4:29-31; Job 22:29; Psa. 51:17; 95:7, 8; 147:3; Prov. 1:23; 28:13, 14; Isa. 57:15; 61:1-3; Hos. 14:1, 2; Jonah 2:4-9; Mic. 7:19; Luke 18:10-14; John 6:37; 15:7, 17-24; Jas. 4:8; 1 John 1:9.
Hymns: 104, 103, 101, 231, 233, 293, 305.
Poems of Dawn, 140: Stumbling Stones or Stepping Stones.
Tower Reading: Z '13, 115 (R 5217).
Questions: Have I stumbled and failed this week? What has my heart's attitude been amid such experiences? How did the Lord manifest His corrections, sympathy and help?
I HAVE been sorely tried, dear Lord, been sorely
The sun hath veiled his brightness, and a cloud hangs
o'er my way;
Why is my heart so heavy, and the daylight cold
I've tried to please Thee, I have striven to faithful be
I've sought for heavenly wisdom in the thing that I
Yet I've been "put to grief"; and oh, can I have
grieved Thee, too?
A fellow-pilgrim on the road a wound hath given
Its sting and smart I keenly feel—its need I can-
Stumbling stone or stepping stone, O Lord, which
shall it be?
A sorrow came to me today—a grief so dense and
The shades of deepest darkness about my heartstrings
The tears have flowed unceasing, till no power is left
I bow beneath my weight of woe, speechless and
stunned; my heart
Sinks down like lead within my breast; its bitter ache
Seem almost more than I can bear. A sharp and
Hath pierced me, and I prostrate lie. O Father,
speak to me!
Thy hand lies hard upon me; can this trial come from
Stepping stone or stumbling stone, which shall this
* * *
A blessing came this day to me, a joy surpassing
A glad way opens up to me, wherein my willing
Turn joyfully; how blest I am within this dear
My way had dark and lonely been for many a weary
My Lord hath brought this gift to me when all was
sad and drear;
Now, where my path was bleak, the flowers of love
and bliss appear.
And, yet, dear Lord, this blessing which Thy love
hath given to me
May fill my heart too fully, and may wean my soul
Then, stepping stone or stumbling stone, my God,
which shall it be?
Momentous question! on its answer my eternal joy
Hangs trembling; shall I be refined as gold without
These woes and blessings potent are to save or to
The time flies on! the "harvest" wanes, the glorious
end is near!
O Master, shall I lose e'en now the "prize" I hold
Shall woes or joys of life have power to dull my lis-
Shall I be lured by siren song, while strains of heaven
On ears attuned? Oh, guide me, Lord, and keep me
May I rejoice to walk with Thee, and suffer for Thy
But I am weak; O Master, dear, do thou my spirit
Grant me thy grace, and strength impart to do Thy
And in affliction or in joy obey and love Thee still.
Almighty Lord, to thee I fly—no other help I know;
Oh, aid me in my need, I pray, and make my heart
With holy fire, and on me, Lord, Thy precious love
I hear Thee speak, I will obey, I stretch my hands
In every providence of Thine, Thy changeless love
And stepping stones to heavenly heights each pain
And joy shall be.
"Thus saith the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose Name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."—Isaiah 57:15.
JEHOVAH is the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity. Before the mountains were brought forth, or the hills, before the First-born was created, He is God. To Moses at the burning bush, He said, "I AM THAT I AM." (Exodus 3:14.) Our God is very great, very wise, very high. Nevertheless, the Scriptures show us that He is also very sympathetic. He is a God of Mercy and of Love.
The passage from which our text is taken informs us that if God were to contend with humanity, the end of the strife would be that mankind would be blotted out of existence. But He remembers that we are dust, and has compassion upon us. In this respect He is different from the gods of the heathen, who are domineering, apparently bent on wreaking vengeance upon those in their power.
Besides being very great and lofty, our God is particularly sympathetic towards those who are of a broken and contrite heart, whose spirit is humble, who realize that they are imperfect, who desire to be in accord with Him, and to dwell in holiness. To such He is ever near—to revive the spirit of the humble, to give them strength. He will not trample them into the dust, as many an earthly potentate has done to his subjects, but will assist them in the right way, and revive the heart of the contrite. These are to know that our God is a God of sympathy, compassion and love, who takes pleasure in reviving their hearts and in bringing them back into harmony with Him, if they are willing to be led.
DISCOURAGEMENT WITH SELF A FAVORABLE CONDITION
There is a difference between a broken and a contrite heart. A heart is broken when it is bowed down with grief and sorrow; a heart is contrite when it has a quiet, deep, continual sorrow for acts not in harmony with righteousness. A broken will is not necessarily the same; for there are those whose wills are broken, but who are not submissive to the Divine will.
To be repentant is to be thoroughly submissive to the Divine will, and implies a change of mental attitude toward sin. This humble, discouraged condition becomes a very favorable one if the person will seek Divine assistance, if he will become submissive to the Lord and ready to do the Divine will. Such will surely receive the blessing of God; for the Lord is very nigh to every one who is broken-hearted. The way to full consecration would be very short to him.
If such as be of contrite heart will be submissive to the Lord, He will save them from their difficulties and bring them into a large place, as the Prophet David states. (Psalm 18:19.) This does not necessarily mean that He will deliver them from financial troubles, but that He will give them peace and rest, which are better than money. If they have family troubles, they will find in Him a superior Friend, who is able and willing to administer superior consolation and refreshment.
Come, ye disconsolate! where'er ye languish,
Come to the mercy-seat, fervently kneel;
Here bring your wounded hearts; here tell your anguish;
Earth hath no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.
Joy of the desolate, light of the straying,
Hope of the penitent, fadeless and pure!
Here speaks the Comforter, tenderly saying,
Earth hath no sorrow that heaven cannot cure.
THE LORD'S METHOD OF DELIVERANCE
The Scriptures assure us that, "There is none righteous, no, not one." There is relative righteousness, however, which God can approve. Those who are seeking to be in harmony with Him to the best of their ability, who are walking in the ways of righteousness, and at the same time are trusting in the precious blood of our Redeemer—such are spoken of as righteous. Of these it is said, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled."—Matthew 5:6.
This class, however, shall have afflictions. The Scriptures tell us that all who will live godly lives shall suffer. (Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 3:12; Romans 5:3-5.) The reason why this is true is that the world is traveling in the opposite direction to righteousness—in the way of selfishness and gratification of the flesh. We read, "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (I John 2:15.) This is especially true of this Gospel Age, when some are following in the footsteps of the Master. It was also true of the Jewish Age, when some were seeking to walk in the way of righteousness. The Lord delivered them out of their afflictions, not in the sense of shielding them from trials, but in that of not permitting them to be overcome by their difficulties.
The Ancient Worthies fully appreciated the Divine favor exercised in their behalf, and took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, in order that they might have the continuance of that favor and larger blessings by and by. God delivered them out of their trials and difficulties by not permitting these to overcome them. This was also true of our Lord, and is true of the Church as well. The Lord delivers us out of our trials and difficulties, so that mentally we are not oppressed by them in the same way as are others. He will sustain and support us in our experiences and will eventually deliver us by giving us a share in the First Resurrection.
The sons of God by adoption are, during this Gospel Age, especially beset by trials and difficulties. If they should fall, however, the fact that they have stumbled will not make them feel like going back into sin, if their hearts are of the right stamp. On the contrary, they will feel like St. Peter, who, when others were stumbling, said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." (John 6:68.) The true people of God have no desire to go to any one but Him. If they stumble, they recover themselves, avail themselves of His arrangements for forgiveness and press on. By these stumblings they learn of their own weaknesses, and then fortify themselves so that they may be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.—Ephesians 6:10.
A just man will not fall into sin. The very most that could happen to him would be to stumble. There are various causes for stumbling. But if the heart is right, the man will rise again; for the Lord will show him that he has made a mistake and will point out the way to him by which he may recover himself. If he is a lover of righteousness, he will desire to press on toward that which is right, just, approved of the Lord, even if he should stumble many times.—Psalm 37:23, 24; Prov. 24:16.
THE EVIDENCE OF FAVOR WITH GOD
So far as our humanity is concerned, we are undone by reason of the fall. It behooves us, then, to be very humble, to feel our own littleness, our own fallen condition. It becomes us to be very contrite, very much in opposition to sin, to feel that sin is the great blight upon the whole race, and that God will not be in harmony with anything except that which is righteous and holy.
All, therefore, who would be in harmony with God must be repentant in respect to their own shortcomings and must be appreciative of His lofty standards—His holy standards. He, in turn, informs these that they have His sympathy, and that they shall have His succor. He appreciates the attitude of mind in which they are; and therefore, as our text tells us, He is ready to revive the spirit of the humble and contrite ones. To such He will show His salvation; to others He will not.
Only the humble-minded can really appreciate their own condition. God not only will revive their spirit, but is willing to lift them up and to make them again sons of God, with all that this implies of blessing. He has this attitude toward the humble and contrite in the present time, and He has always had this spirit toward the humble and contrite ones. Throughout Christ's reign this humble class will have His favor and blessing. Only the humble and contrite ones have the opportunity of becoming joint-heirs with our Lord.
God resists the proud. To the humble He gives grace, and opens the eyes of their understanding. They become His children because they are in the attitude to receive His blessings and to be guided by His instruction. The text applies not only in the present time, but will have an application in the next Age. "Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people." (Isaiah 62:10.) These words are all intended to indicate the preparations for the incoming Age. There is no provision for the proud, none for the haughty, none for the self-conscious—but all for the humble-minded.
If God has these blessings in store for the humble only, and if the humble are few in number at the present time, what of the others of humanity? God is allowing now a humiliating influence to work with people, which should teach them humility and lead them to be contrite of heart. But much more will this be the case in the next Age. "When Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." (Isaiah 26:9.) All the blessings will be upon the contrite and humble. And this will be so markedly before the attention of the people that all will know a change has taken place.
Now the humble and contrite are trodden down in the street. Now the proud are happy. "Now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, even they that tempt God are delivered." (Malachi 3:15.) But in the new Kingdom every one that exalteth himself shall be abased, and the humble shall be exalted. (Luke 14:11.) God has provided a thousand years for the education of all. A thousand years may seem a short period for this work when we know that for six thousand years things have been going wrong. But we must recollect that during the six thousand years, many of the people have lived but a short time—many dying in infancy.
In the new order of things this will be changed, and each will live longer. "There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days; for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed." (Isaiah 65:20.) "Judgment [justice] also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding-place."—Isaiah 28:17.
And then it will not be necessary for one to say to another, "Know the Lord; for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord." (Jeremiah 31:34.) The high standard that God has for His people will be recognized. Then all who have humility and the right condition of heart will come into harmony with God. All who refuse to come into harmony with God will get the wages of sin—the Second Death.
THE TIME, MY SOUL, IS SHORT!
No time to linger by the way,
No time for ease, no time for play;
No time for earthly loves or joys,
No time for worldly cares or toys—
The time, my soul, is short!
No time to murmur or complain,
No time to heed the heart's dull pain;
No time for tears or mournful song,
No time to ask, How far? How long?—
The time, my soul, is short!
Ah, yes! 'tis short—yet time enough
To run thy course, so steep and rough;
Just time to reap "the fields," so white,
Before the coming of "the night"—
Just time, my soul, just time!
Just time to make thy heart more pure,
Just time to make thy "calling sure,"
Just time to enter through "the door,"
To reign with Christ for evermore—
Just time, my soul, just time!
GERTRUDE W. SEIBERT.